Exiled in Paris, the frail, elderly Mathilde Kschessinska sits down to write her memoirs. A lifetime ago, she was the vain, ambitious, impossibly charming prima ballerina assoluta of the tsar’s Russian Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg. Kschessinska’s riveting storytelling soon thrusts us into a world lost to time: that great intersection of the Russian court and the Russian theater. Through Kschessinska’s memories of her own triumphs and defeats, we witness the stories that changed history, from the seething beginnings of revolution to the end of a grand, decadent way of life that belonged to the nineteenth century. Based on fact, The True Memoirs of Little K is “an engrossing tale of love, loss, and history”
I have a passion for ballet. I did ballet dancing for 13 years and although I had to abandon it due to an injury it always remained dear to me. So when I stumbled upon “The True Memoirs of Little K” I was very fascinated and I decided to give it a try, and I’m very glad I did.
It sounds like a biography but is the fictional memoir of Mathilde Kschessinka, prima ballerina assoluta of the Imperial Russian Ballet who becomes the mistress of tsar Nicolas II. Through her eyes we become witnesses to the power and wealth that the Romanovs possessed as well as their disastrous fall, with the Russian Revolution. The novel is narrated by a 100 year old Mathilde who remembers her life, recounting her flirtatious days as a ballerina, her torrid affairs, her ambition and her passion for tsar Nicholas II. the dancers of the Imperial Ballet expected to become mistresses to powerful men, and Mathilde is extremely honest about how she wanted to live her life. She may not seem like a particularly likeable character at first- even though I admired her determination, I didn’t like the ways with which she pursued her goals, but she soon learns the price of ambition and the reader can’t help but feel sympathy for her.
History plays an instrumental role in this story- “The True Memoirs of Little K” is an extremely researched novel. Even though Adrienne Sharp takes a few liberties ( for example we see that Mathilde and Nicholas’s affair continued after their marriage, but we can’t say if this was actually true) most of the events are very true to fact. Sharp conveys the time period very well through beautiful and elegant writing. She makes great use of detail as you find yourself thinking of really being in The Russia of the late 19th century, and you become a spectator of stage performances and of the intrigues that The Romanov’s court was full of. Love, passion, intrigue, loss…The author knows how to keep a reader glued to the page.
You may find it a bit hard-going at the beginning, but my advice is not to be discouraged. Once I went forward with the story I couldn’t put the book down. It earns a solid 4 stars from me.
This is for those who love historical fiction and period romances and for those who get emotional in front of tutus and ballet shoes…An enchanting story worth reading