Swan Lake

Author: Mark Helprin

Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg

In an isolated alpine cottage, an old man sits telling a story to an innocent, eager little girl. Unlike her present life or the stories she’s heard before, this is a story of tragedy and human cruelty. But it’s also a story of love and beauty. And in a sense, it’s her own story, one she desperately needs to hear.

Swan Lake is one of those stories that is much more, in every sense, than initial first impressions would make it appear. Initially, it seems simplistic, childish, old-fashioned, bucolic, and overly descriptive. Within half a dozen pages, it proves itself to be anything but–rather it is wondrous, tragic, beautiful, poetic, aching, and insightful. This book takes the basic story of the original Tchaikovsky ballet and expands the story of Odette and the prince into a deep, moving fairy tale of a story. I particularly enjoyed the part of the old storyteller–he is a character of great depth and interest whom I could see appearing readily in a Lloyd Alexander novel. Swan Lake is definitely a recommended read–preferably in a quiet location over a cup of hot tea. . . . It’s the sort of book that bears quiet contemplation.

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