Thursday 21 October 2021

THE TURNOUT by Megan Abbott


With their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, Dara and Marie Durant have been dancers since they can remember. Growing up, they were trained by their glamorous mother, founder of the Durant School of Dance. After their parents' death in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago, the sisters began running the school together, along with Charlie, Dara's husband and once their mother's prized student. The three have perfected a dance that keeps the studio thriving.

But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school's annual performance of The Nutcracker-a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration-an interloper arrives and threatens their delicate balance.

This is another book that sounded intriguing and kept popping up all over the place so much, I couldn't wait to check it out myself. 

Dara and Marie Durant are ballet dancers. Dara is married to Charlie, who was a fellow dancer until he got hurt. Their mother was also a dancer but she passed away years ago. Together, the sisters run the Durant School of Dance studio in a building that is falling apart. And now, during the very busy annual The Nutcracker performance season, a man enters their lives who quickly becomes much more and threatens everything...

Well, that turned out to be a totally messed-up story. And I couldn't look away. 👀

The writing style stood out from the beginning. Each chapter is short and sharp enough to slice right to the heart of everything. But not deep enough to reveal what hides beneath the surface. Oh no, that's slowly and painstakingly revealed. Yet, the sense of something disturbing is there instantly and when the truth is realised, it's shocking but definitely not surprising.

This is the story of a family with many secrets. About two sisters who grew up in a dysfunctional home and now, still work together. Their connection definitely tips into creepy territory, and is very destructive. Dara is outwardly in control and comes across like a cold, emotionless ice maiden although she's inwardly insecure and really good at burying memories. Marie appears to be the caring, softer teacher but is secretly spiralling out of control because she's a mess and can't forget. And Charlie, well, he's physically and emotionally broken.

There's a LOT more to the story. Like Derek the contractor and all the trouble he stirs. The production of The Nutcracker and all the drama that causes with the ballet students. And so many secrets, surprises and all the bad luck.

The Turnout is an intense and addictive tale about two sisters, how everything between them has corrupted and turned so sour they only get themselves deeper into darkness. It's about the sacrifice of ballet dancing and the toll it takes. And also the kind of book that digs its claws deep and doesn't let go until the rotten core emerges hard enough to horrify.

I enjoyed this surreal fever dream as much as the raw and ugly approach used to frame the surface beauty.

Thank you so much, Hachette Australia for sending me a copy.

The Turnout, August 2021, ISBN 9780349012483, Virago

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