Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfeild
The self-dubbed Fossil sisters – Pauline, Petrova, and Posy – are orphans - each collected from far flung locales by a famous fossil hunter. The girls call him Gum, short for Great Uncle Matthew. Gum is not one to stay in one place for very long and so the girls are raised almost entirely by Nana and Aunt Sylvia. Life is good until the money starts to run out and Gum shows no signs of reappearing from his latest journey. Sylvia decides to take in boarders –a ballet instructor, two retired female professors and a mechanic and his wife. Each boarder plays a role in shaping the unique destinies of each girl.

This is where the book really surprised me. I thought this was going to be a sweet, but improbable story about three orphans who make it big in the ballet world. But, that’s not quite how it goes down. The girls do attend a prestigious performing arts school, but only one girl (Posy) really shines as a dancer - becoming extremely single-minded about it to an almost pathological degree. Pauline finds instead that acting is her passion and has her own triumphs and trials as a working child actress. Petrova, however, never cottons to any of the performing arts – much preferring mechanics and engineering.

I’m having a hard time putting into words what exactly about this book made such an impression on me, but basically it was just so much smarter than I was expecting it to be. The plotting was fresh and often unpredictable and the characters were diverse and multidimensional - making for a very satisfying read! My only minor complaint is that the ending felt a bit rushed, but perhaps I just didn’t want it to end!