The Master's Muse by Varley O'Connor
A Novel

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Synopsis

“We set our sights on each other almost from the beginning.”

So begins The Master’s Muse, an exquisite, deeply affecting novel about the true love affair between two artistic legends: George Balanchine, the Russian émigré to America who is widely considered the Shakespeare of dance, and his wife and muse, Tanaquil Le Clercq.

Copenhagen, 1956: Tanaquil Le Clercq, known as Tanny, is a gorgeous, talented, and spirited young ballerina whose dreams are coming true. She is married to the love of her life, George Balanchine— the famous mercurial director of New York City Ballet. She dances the best roles in his newest creations, has been featured in fashion magazines and television dramas, socializes with the country’s most renowned artists and intellectuals, and has become a star around the world. But one fateful evening, only hours after performing, Tanny falls suddenly and gravely ill; she awakens from a feverous sleep to find that she can no longer move her legs.

Tanny is diagnosed with polio and Balanchine quits the ballet to devote himself to caring for his wife. He crafts exercises to help her regain her strength, deepening their partnership and love for each other. But in the ensuing years, after Tanny discovers she will never walk again, their relationship is challenged as she endeavors to create a new identity for herself and George returns to the company, choreographing ballets inspired by the ever-younger, more beautiful and talented dancers. Their marriage is put to the ultimate test as Tanny battles to redefine her dreams and George throws himself into his art.

The Master’s Muse is an evocative imagining of the deep yet complicated love between a smart, beautiful woman and her charismatic, ambitious husband; it is the story of an extraordinary collaboration in art and in life.
 

About Varley O'Connor

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Varley O’Connor is the author of three novels. She teaches fiction and creative nonfiction writing at Kent State University and for the Northeast Ohio Universities Consortium MFA program.
 
Published May 8, 2012 by Scribner. 258 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Romance. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Master's Muse

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Jerome Robbins, Diana Adams and Maria Tallchief are among the other real-life figures vividly depicted in the first-person narration O’Connor (A Company of Three, 2003, etc.) crafts for Tanny, but the center of attention is always George, captured in all his intermingled charm, cruelty and utter ...

Feb 20 2012 | Read Full Review of The Master's Muse: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Choreographer George Balanchine’s fifth wife, ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, never wrote about her relationship with her husband, but if she had we can only hope it would be as graceful and penetrating as what O’Connor portrays in her fourth novel (after The Cure).

Mar 12 2012 | Read Full Review of The Master's Muse: A Novel

Washington Independent Review of Books

Twenty-seven-year-old dancer Tanaquil Le Clercq was a celebrated prima ballerina with the New York City Ballet when she contracted polio on a European tour in 1956.

Jul 23 2012 | Read Full Review of The Master's Muse: A Novel

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