The PHC Book Club
The Book Club members read and discuss with fellow participants a variety
of books about Polish heritage and/or written by Polish authors .
Here is the list of books we have explored over the years.
FIRST MEETING: 7pm on February 6, 2018
"The Chosen Maiden"
Dana Hansen (Quill & Quire): "Many works of fiction take as their inspiration true events and persons of historical significance, but few do so as lovingly and imaginatively as Eva Stachniak’s fifth novel. The Chosen Maiden is a fictionalized account of the remarkable life and accomplishments of ballet dancer and choreographer Bronislava (Bronia) Nijinska, sister to the legendary Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Set in the years 1894 through 1939, and told from Bronia’s perspective, The Chosen Maiden delves into the workings of an artist’s mind and reveals the resiliency of art in a time of worldwide political upheaval and war... "
As children of distinguished Polish-born dancers, Bronia, Vaslav, and their older brother, Stassik, find themselves destined for a competitive life in the all-consuming world of the ballet. Vaslav quickly emerges as a rising star in the Russian Imperial Ballet School, overshadowing his younger sister, who is no less ambitious or talented. For Vaslav, fame and accolades come easily and opportunities present themselves to dance on world stages with Sergei Diaghilev’s newly formed Ballets Russes. Bronia is swept along in her famous brother’s wake, given small roles to dance, but always dreams of moving beyond her classical training to newer, more modern and exciting ways of dancing: 'Ballet needs a revolution, we say. Of colour, of music, of movement. Russian art needs freedom from the past.'".
Hellen Heller (Publishers Weekly): "The book takes readers into the controversial 1913 premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, in which Vaslav casts Bronia as the Chosen Maiden who dances herself to death, and then follows them both into adversity. Stachniak brilliantly brings the story of Bronia, the lesser-known Nijinsky, to life. She has an excellent command of the period and the dance world, and an ability to draw characters who will enrapture the reader..."
Maria Pelletier (Cosmopolitan Review): "Chosen Maiden, a novel about Nijinska, also tells us a lot about her times, specifically in the waning days of Imperial Russia. The book ends in 1939, on a ship to America, as the Second World War begins. She is heading towards a new place, hoping to “find the strength for another struggle”, after devastating personal losses. I am not sure why the author chose to end Bronia’s story at this stage of her life, though it is clearly a turning point. I was moved to research her later life to see what happened to her in America, so I would have welcomed a postscript with additional details of her life after 1939.....
Chosen Maiden, rescuing Nijinska from her brother’s shadow, reveals an artist, one who knows that “to excel, I have to be strong, resilient, see more, understand what is hidden to others”, and also, as her brother told her, that “Art is all that matters, Bronia. Everything else is distraction."
Youtube video discussing the art and people of the time