Ninety-nine years old, with a sharp memory for every jewel she owned and every conquest she made, Mathilde Kschessinska, - prima ballerina assoluta of the long-vanished Russian Imperial Ballet - sits down to write her memoirs.
And what a life it has been. The greatest dancer of the age, her scything technique caught the eye, and heart, of one Nikolai Romanov when she was only seventeen years old. When Nikolai ascended the throne as czar and was forced to give up his mistress, she turned her gaze on his cousins, the grand dukes; despite betraying each man with the other, her loyalty to Niki never wavered. As the last czar presided over a fatally crumbling empire, her devotion to the imperial family was tested in ways she could never have foreseen.
In Adrienne Sharp's richly imagined novel, we see the seething beginnings of revolution and the blind giddiness of a doomed court. Based on fact, The True Memoirs of Little K is historical fiction as its meant to be written: passionately eventful and alive with emotions that resonate today. It is a magnificent entertainment.
"Though Mathilde is a bit narrow in terms of her icy ambition, her story is an unrelenting thrill ride and chockfull of the stuff that historical fiction buffs adore: larger than life characters, epic change, grand settings, and lusty plotting." - Publishers Weekly
"Balletomanes, devotees of stories about the Romanovs, and those who enjoyed Sharp's previous books are the likely audience. Other readers probably won't put up with Little K's self-centered recollections and Sharp's excessive descriptions of the Russian aristocracy." - Library Jounral
"With intimate word paintings of historical charactersRasputin makes an appearanceand with a strong-willed heroine, Sharp's novel will appeal to lovers of the genre" - Kirkus Reviews
"I tore through this delectable book like a box of elegantly crafted chocolates. Even now, I keep riffling though the crumpled gold wrappers, wishing there was more. A fascinating, carefully researched and intricately rendered portrait of the last tsar and his clever, talented and wildly ambitious mistress, prima ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska. Bravo, Little K." - Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
"This novel is a rare and rich pleasure, full of exquisite details of the Russian imperial court, of ballet, of diamonds, of intricate love affairs backstage in theaters and palaces in a vanished world." - Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin and Sashenka
"Mistress of grand dukes and Russia's last tsar, Mathilde Kschessinska was the fabled prima ballerina assoluta of St. Petersburgs Maryinsky Ballet during the Empire's last decades. In The True Memoirs of Little K, novelist Adrienne Sharp reveals the passion, greed, and lust for life behind the fairy tale of the ballerinas real memoirs, and the secret about her son's paternity that it's easy to believe just might be true." - Lynn Garafola, author of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes
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Rated of 5
Duane F. (Cape Girardeau, MO)
A book of fascinating times
"The True Memoirs of Little K" wound its way through one of history's greatest time periods. Fiction based upon history has a way of bringing cold facts the breathe of life necessary for us to live history not just observe it. Adrienne Sharp's attention to detail and lyrical voice made the turmoil of Russia's upheaval more meaningful and real. Often historical fiction can be melodramatic, but in this case her portrayal of Little K rings clear. Bravo, I loved it!
Rated of 5
Lola T. (Broken Arrow, OK)
Little K's Memoirs
This is an enjoyable historical novel, but be aware that it is not fast-paced; it takes some reading to really "get into" the book. If you love Russian names and terms, you'll not be put off by the book. (I give Russian names nicknames to help smooth the reading, but there were so many character that I lost track of the nicknames!)
Characterization of K is wonderful, but some of the other characters were flat, almost interchangeable. I disliked much of K's feelings of entitlement and self-absorption, but realize that is what the author intended. That is simply the way she was; we do not have to love the main character/protagonist/subject of a well-written novel. The plot seems to plod through most of the book, and then it gallops to a stunning/sad finale. As with most historical fiction, I love learning about history through this novel; although Russian history seems to engender novels that are dense and wordy. It would be a great read for a book discussion group not afraid of reading a lengthy novel! I'd recommend it!
Rated of 5
Andrienne G. (Azusa, CA)
How historical fiction should be written
I have to agree with the other reviewer who said that she didn't regret reading the book, but it wasn't a page turner. This book is heavy with information - probably too heavy -one might wonder if in real-life, an old woman would be able to remember so many details. But it served its purpose in taking the reader back in time.
Rated of 5
Donna D. (Williamsville, NY)
Historical Novel With Potential
I was delighted to have the opportunity to preview this novel, written as the memoir of a prestigious ballerina who has a life-long affair with the last czar of Russia. The novel appears to have been very well-researched. If anything, I felt that Adrienne Sharp was overly ambitious in presenting so much detail of the history of the fall of the Romanovs. I really struggled through the first half of the book, which read more like a textbook than a novel. Things picked up in the second half, but the rather lifeless characters failed to rescue the novel.
Historical fiction presents the challenge of drawing the reader in without deviating too far from the facts, and Sharp was just not daring enough in giving her characters some personality. Once Mathilde becomes a mother, her ambition and love for her son breathes some life into her, and the reader is more drawn in. Sharp's portrayal of the city of Petersburg and the inner circle of the aristocracy are sometimes captivating. This was a novel with potential that just came up a little bit short in engaging my interest.
Rated of 5
Pamela F. (Grants Pass, OR)
Historical Fiction that makes you want to read more...
I love historical fiction. I especially love it if something moves me enough to make me want to find out more about and event during that time. This book does just that. I have put it down a couple of times to read up on Bloody Sunday...to look at the described Faberge eggs online, to find pictures of Little K.
Fascinating book, fascinating woman, fascinating time in history. Well written and true to the character who is telling the story. This book is going to be a great Christmas gift for several friends.
Rated of 5
How historical fiction should be
I have to agree with the other reviewer who said that she didn't regret reading the book, but it wasn't a page turner. This book is heavy with information--probably too heavy--one might wonder if in real-life, an old woman would be able to remember so many details. But it served its purpose in taking the reader back in time.
Adrienne Sharp trained at the prestigious Harkness Ballet and has been a Fiction Fellow at MacDowell, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Squaw Valley Writers Conference. She is the author of White Swan, Black Swan and The Sleeping Beauty.
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