Little Dancer

By Mel Melvin

Les Misérables meets Girl with a Pearl Earring: a historical novel inspired by the iconic sculpture

Biography | Feminism
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Paris, 1878. A fourteen-year-old ballet dancer named Marie van Goethem is chosen by the unknown artist, Edgar Degas, to model for a new sculpture: his Little Dancer, aged Fourteen Years (c 1880).

But Marie is much more than she seems. By day she’s a “little rat” of the opera, contorting her starving body to titillate the top-hatted bourgeoisie.  By night, she’s secretly plotting to overthrow the government and reinstate the Paris Commune, to keep a promise she made to her father, a leading communard who died in the street massacres of 1871.

But Marie’s socialist principles are challenged when she finds herself falling in love with Degas and the intoxicating world of bohemian, Impressionist Paris.

While watching the troubling sculpture of herself come to life in Degas' hands, she herself is transformed and empowered in ways that she couldn’t have imagined and doesn’t quite understand.

As the opening date for the fifth Impressionist Exhibition looms, Marie is made homeless and a devastating family secret is uncovered which changes everything for both Marie and Degas.  With Degas struggling to finish his sculpture and the police closing in on Marie, she must decide where her loyalties lie and act to save herself, her family and the Little Dancer.

Mel Melvin writes: “This book is Les Misérables meets Girl with a Pearl Earring.  But the protagonist of this novel, Marie Van Goethem, is no good girl, no passive muse.  She’s a daughter of the Paris Commune, one of the anarchist proto-feminists from the slums of Montmartre who inspired the Suffragettes to radical action. The influence of these women can still be seen today in people like Greta Thunberg and social movements like the ‘gilets jaunes’ and Extinction Rebellion.”

Proposed book spec:

B-format paperback, 336pp

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Get a paperback version of the book with your name in the back, among the list of patrons.

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  • The paperback book and ebook.
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24 pledges

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Get a signed, paperback version of the book with your name in the back among the list of patrons.

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  • The paperback book, signed, and ebook.
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  • Mel Melvin avatar

    Mel Melvin

    Melanie first fell in love with Degas’ iconic sculpture on a life-changing French exchange trip to Paris, when she was a fourteen-year-old dance student.


    Who was this gawky, rebellious little teenager in the Louvre, giving the metaphorical two-fingered salute to her polite onlookers? She was nothing like the smart middle-class ballet girls she hung out with.  


    The image of Degas troubling sculpture was imprinted in her mind. After completing a degree in French and Italian, Mel lived in Paris and danced professionally in her twenties. She still performs regularly and in 2018 achieved her life-long dream of singing Jacques Brel songs at the Savoy hotel in London. 


    Mel’s fascination with dance and movement led her to an MA in drama and movement therapy. She ran a training company for 18 years, became a yoga teacher and now has her own retreat company, based in the magical mountains behind Malaga.


    Mel’s second meeting with the Little Dancer came 35 after the first. She wandered into the Royal Academy, shortly after completing her MA at Sussex Uni, despairing of the fact she still hadn’t got an idea for a novel.  And there was the Little Dancer waiting for her.  Mel could almost hear her hissing from her glass case, urging Mel to tell her untold story. So Mel did. 


     

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