In this fictional memoir, Mathilde Kschessinska describes her experience as a prima ballerina and mistress to Tzar Nicholas II. The sparkling narrative offers a colorful account of the backstage saga of the Russian ballet, and also a front row seat to the drama of the Russian revolution. The diva’s own fortune was intertwined with the fate of the Romanov dynasty, prospering by their favor and forced into exile when the empire was overthrown. Though known as “Little K,” her character seems larger than life. She yearned to occupy center stage, both in and out of the theater, disparaging the women of the imperial family and declaring of a younger renowned ballerina, “I’ve outlived her, you know.” Using thorough research and a captivating narrator, author Adrienne Sharp conjures both the grandeur and collapse of tzarist Russia. The 19th century world has long disappeared. Yet Little K endures, seemingly by virtue of her vain ambition and by the determined voice that enlivens the events recalled in this jewel of a book.
Penina Grossberg is an educator and teacher mentor.