I came upon this book one day while rifling through my mother’s yawn-inducing adult paperbacks, due to a lack of recent visits to the library. They were the kind of books that are thick, fine print, and usually about some unhappy beautiful heroine who finds true love through a turbulent 700 pages. Then I came across Granny Dan. It was hardcover, a mere 223 pages, and had no close-up shot of a gun, or broken glass, or some other imagery in that vein. So, I did the obvious thing, I opened it up and began to read.
Granny Dan was a magical grandmother, who enjoyed roller skating in her kitchen, singing to her family in Russian, and mostly just loving her family in her own little ways. But when she passed away, no one knew anything about her past, which she’d spoken little of. When cleaning out her house after her death, her granddaughter is sent a small brown box, containing all the secrets of Granny Dan’s life, secrets just bursting to be understood. The box contained very few things, a pair of satin toe ballet shoes, a gold locket, and letters tied together. Granny Dan suddenly becomes more than just an endearing grandmother, she becomes Danina Petroskova, the great ballerina.
Learning more of Danina’s past, her granddaughter slowly begins to unravel the mystery surrounding her life.
As a young girl, Danina’s father and brothers gave her up to a ballet school in St. Petersburg, Russia, because so many men would not know how to raise the motherless girl. For years, Danina devoted her life to ballet, she did not know the outside world. While other girls fell in love and began to ruin their focus for training, Danina only ate, slept, and danced, it was a monastic life, enduring gruelling hours of training with her teacher, Madame Markova. By the age of seventeen, Danina was a prima, and from her performances, she was soon recognized by the Czar and Czarina, members of the royal family. As time went on, she became a favourite of the Imperial family, especially the sickly Czarevitch, Alexei. (The Czar is basically the equivalent of the king, the Czarina, the queen, and the Czarevitch, the prince. Alexei’s family, the Imperial family, were real)
Many shattering events occur to Danina, from losing precious brothers to war, to falling in love with Alexei’s (the Czarevitch) doctor, Nikolai Obrajensky.