What a terrific book this is. It tells the story of the Russian Tatar dancer Rudolf Nureyev. He was purportedly born on a train, rumbling down the trans Siberian railroad, and somehow that encapsulates his wandering life.
The story opens with the boy Rudi entertaining the mentally and physically scarred troops returning from the Nazi front. His father returns too, a political officer who takes a mighty dim view of his son’s chosen career path, something that dogs Rudi’s progress at every turn.
Yet he is not to be denied and slowly eases his way up the greasy rungs, and he is not beyond the occasional dirty trick to help him on his way. He is quickly marked out as a rebellious character and is subsequently carefully watched. But not carefully enough it seems, for he manages to defect in Paris from under the noses of the KGB officers. Rudi is on his way, hurtling toward the hedonistic lifestyle of New York, London and Paris.
Personally I found the passages set within the Soviet Union of far greater interest than those in the West. The book moved me to tears on several occasions; such is the power of Mister McCann’s writing. It often comes across as a biography, but as he is at pains to point out, this is a work of fiction. Sometimes you have to remind yourself of that, though it never once detracts from the enjoyment it offers.
The book is written in the first person and some people have found that irritating because that first person often changes with every chapter, and sometimes on every page. It is a device that keeps the reader on their toes, yet is does not hinder the writing, or the enjoyment.
It does not matter if you have little or no interest in ballet or dance, or the Soviet Union, or the Cold War, or the Sixties, or World War II, or homosexuality, for this book has the power to grip the reader whatever their interests.
I have just taken a peak at Amazon’s ranking for this title. Amazingly it was 486,350! If that is true there is no justice in the world because this is the best book I have read this year. The work in hardback form can be bought for the cost of the postage alone, and that is ridiculous.
Do yourself a favour and read this book, heck, go one step further, treat yourself, and buy a copy. The book and the writer deserve it, and so do you.