The True Memoirs of Little K

Many know the story of the fall of the Romanovs, the splendor of the imperial court toppled by revolutionaries, but author Adrienne Sharp tells the somewhat familiar history in a brand new way. The True Memoirs of Little K begins in Paris in 1971 with the blunt and rather boastful introduction, "My name is Mathilde Kschessinska, and I was the greatest Russian ballerina on the imperial stages." The tale which is unraveled from the memories of an old woman is that of Russia - before, during, and after the upheaval of its royalty - told through one of its most famous artists.

Mathilde Kschessinska, known to her loved ones as Mala or Little K, rose to fame in the tsar's Russian Imperial Ballet. She gained the coveted position of prima ballerina assoluta - more from her charm and cunning than talent at dance. She found herself mingling in the inner circles of several grand dukes and eventually finding the favor, and the bed, of Tsar Nicholas II himself. Throughout the story of the changing political climate in Russia, from the Romanovs and Rasputin to the revolutionaries and royal executions, Mala is a fair narrator. She constructs the history piece by piece - at times close to the action and in other scenes as confused by the tumultuous world around her as any of the Russian citizens.

Adrienne Sharp draws heavily on true events to create this book, weaving in some fiction and speculation only as a garnish for the facts. I greatly enjoyed learning more about the time period of the last Russian tsars, the culture of the ballet, and the atmosphere of the Russian revolution. Though Kschessinska lends a human perspective to the events, I never really connected with her as a character. I found her rather unlikeable, but in a way that did make her more realistic as a flawed historical figure. The way that the story was told, as memoirs from a flashback point of view, was also a bit distracting. The narration would occasionally jump between different past occurrences and although the non-linear trajectory served to remind the reader of the elderly Kschessinska, I would have preferred to fully embrace the historical setting.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it took me a little while to warm up to the narrator and the storytelling style. It wasn't a very quick read, but I would definitely recommend it to those interested in the subject matter and time period.

3 Response to "The True Memoirs of Little K"

  1. Sam (Tiny Library) says:
    November 3, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    I'm definitely interested in this one, as it's one of my favourite periods in history.

  2. April Books & Wine says:
    November 4, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    This sounds fabulous!

    I love reading about Russia. And I love reading about imperial Russia. And I also love reading about ballerinas.

    Thanks for bringing this rocking book to my attention!!

  3. Anonymous Says:
    November 7, 2011 at 4:33 AM

    Great review, sounds like a very interesting book. My wife would love this one as well.

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