Dance of the Swans

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Dance of the Swans by Alice Bialsky

I love novels about adolescence, especially if the main characters are orphans and poor. What better way is there to test the true essence of a human being than to peel them of protections such as parents, money, and social status? David Copperfield, Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre, Pollyanna – all are tortured orphans that managed to break the orphan-barrier and find their place in the world due to the power of their personality, talents and principles. Nobody took care of them. They were left to their own devices in a tough world- and made it. With the beginning of the modern age, orphans disappeared from the literary view and were replaced by average adolescents with troubles at school, difficulties in deciding who to go to the party with, mother issues, and with all due respect- this doesn’t even begin to compete with an orphan in rags begging for more porridge at a workhouse.
Even though Alyssa, the amazing heroine of The Crown Not Heavy is equipped with two parents who are totally alive, and doesn’t live in 19th century London but in 80’s Moscow, she manages to bring back the literary charm of the orphans’ struggle for life and identity, one that she needs to create from nothing, or from what she understands as nothing: social and familial chaos, music that takes up too much space in a world where what actually matters is too depressing to deal with. That’s why we see a lot of alcohol, Russian rock and restless nightly strolls with the wrong crowd, youthful love with a man that next to him even Heathcliff himself is a little kitten – and all of this is funny and sad and exciting, and most of all, extremely glamorous.