I've read this novel fairly recently. Being my first book by Amélie, I had no expectations and how delicious has that proven to be! Reading a book by new author can be as sweet as trying a dish you never had before. This Belgium writer who writes in French and had grown up in Japan and China has proven to be such a treat! I think it is safe to say that it is surely not the last novel by her that I will read for her narrative voice is truly fascinating.
There is something magical in the way she tells the story of this young girl whose only dream is to be a ballerina and yet the story feels very real. The cruelty of the world is not hidden (the insanity of the ballet school, the non accepting everyone different must face in everyday world) but the magic is still there (the sense of destiny, the love at the first sight, the flight of the dancer.) It is clear that in this novel the magic exists simultaneously with the cruelty of the world and the one does not exclude the other. Strange mix of fantasy and reality, one could say. But isn't our world precisely that? Can you have one without the other? What is one worth without the other?
Now, about the fantasy realism I have always been a bit skeptical about. Not that I have not loved the books prescribed to that genre or movement (however you choose to call it), but to me the name " fantasy realism" always seemed a bit of an paradox. However, as much as I hate labels, as in all of us, there is that part that wishes to classify things, and if I had to classify this novels this is probably the category it would fall in. Nevertheless, I really don't wish to compare the novel to some other one. For me every book is always a love affair of its own. If this was one of those cheesy two words reviews you can find on book cover, I would go for: " unique and refreshing." But as it is not, I will have to say a bit more, won't I?
I don't really have the desire to go into great detail when it comes to narrative and the story itself. I have already said I loved the way the story was told. It is basically a story about growing up. The heroine of the novel is masterly portrayed from her early childhood to her maturity. I have to say that it has came to me as a great surprise when I found out that this novel is actually a romanticized biography i.e that it is founded on a real person. There is a real Robert out there, as strange as it may seem. There is even a mentioning of the author herself and her friendship with the heroine of this novel.