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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
Quest of the Sleeping Princess is Mary Sheeran’s second novel that looks at the life of Susan McFadden, who has a deep-rooted passion for ballet. The year is 1988, and a gala performance in New York is at the core of the book’s plot. McFadden watches the performance with a keen eye for details from the graceful and controlled moves of the performers to the technical aspects of staging. As we enter McFadden’s thoughts, we are treated to embedded narratives about the performing arts, personal relationships, and theatrical truths. One of these embedded stories explores a look back at McFadden’s relationship with her late mother. The book is filled with quotes from artists about art (notably Balanchine) and discusses ballet as a sophisticated form of dance with its own vocabulary.
Quest of the Sleeping Princess can feel didactic in talking about ballet and McFadden is a walking encyclopedia on the subject. Yet there is no doubt that this book is a tour de force that fully lives up to Mary Sheeran’s ambitions. You come to embrace a near-fanatical fascination for ballet through the impact of McFadden’s spectator perspective, or you can reject it. Throw in the anxiety of pressures from getting involved in a highly-demanding art form that demands perfection while balancing a personal life and you get a look at the psyche of a protagonist that is mesmerizing and unique. Lyrical in its tone, the portrayal of relationships has superb moments of tenderness. This novel is absolutely deserving of recognition, and you may well be among the first to read a future classic.