Dancer by Colum McCann
After reading and greatly admiring his award-winning Let the Great World Spin, I turned to Dancer, McCann’s highly fictionalized account of the life of Rudolph Nureyev. About a third of the way in I think this one’s just as good. In addition to being a wonderful storyteller, one of McCann’s gifts is the creation of small characters that can occupy an entire chapter, are complete unto themselves, and yet have relevance to the larger story. His depiction, for example, of the expert maker of ballet shoes (he loathes the American term “slippers”), given the custom order for the great Russian’s shoes, could stand alone as a moving portrait of a highly skilled man devoted to his craft, transported by it even, while the rest of his life is pedestrian.