This year I’ve been reading more sweet, warm, comforting books than I usually do. This has resulted in revisiting some childhood favourites, amongst which, as you may remember, are the Drina books by Jean Estoril. Drina’s Dancing Year is the second installment in this eleven book series and I enjoyed rereading the gentle story as just as much as I did the first book.
While the first book Ballet for Drina stands on its own as a complete story, its primary purpose is to provide the necessary background information to set up the rest of the series. Drina’s Dancing Year continues this format: it tells the story of Drina’s first year at the Dominick ballet school and of her determination to succeed on her own merit rather than revealing her secret, but it is also an important part in the overall arch of Drina’s journey towards becoming (as I assume she inevitably will, these being happy children’s books) a world class ballerina. This book covers Drina starting at school, making friends with the poor but sweet Rose and enemies with proud, odious Queenie, and also Drina’s inexplicable failure to get a part in the Christmas show, which turns out to be less disappointing than she fears.
I was surprised at how well this book stood up to being reread. Although some of the concerns and attitudes can seem a little old fashioned, Mrs Chester liking Rose in spite of her lower class stands out particularly) the story itself remains charming and engaging. I found myself getting wrapped up in the little dramas of Drina’s life in spite of the outcome being obvious even if I hadn’t read the book before.
I think that Drina ages convincingly; this book shows her character developing in a way that is in line with a little girl who is one year older and a little more experienced. She doesn’t change, but her traits become more subtle and I liked this. The supporting characters continue to be likeable and just different enough to give them some interest, even if this is only in relation to Drina. Estoril’s mean characters are all very similar, but they aren’t the focus of any of the books so far so this is less annoying than it could be.
The Drina books are a lovely series, and I continue to recommend them to anyone who enjoys old fashioned ballet stories.
Drina’s Dancing Year by Jean Estoril. Published by Macdonald, 1988, pp. 176. Originally published in 1958.