The Turnout by Megan Abbott

The Turnout is a dance that begins slowly and lures the reader in, with Megan Abbott offering a precise dissection of complex relationships

Book Review by Heather McDaid | 03 Aug 2021
  • The Turnout
Book title: The Turnout
Author: Megan Abbott

Every girl wants to be a ballerina. That’s the notion that underpins the Durant family's dance school, now run by Dara and Marie, dancers home schooled and trained by their mother in a very claustrophobic upbringing. It’s also a notion that at one glance sets up a soft and simple idea – one of aspiration and dance, of craft, of the annual crown jewel of The Nutcracker. At another, it’s one of competition, strenuous work, anxiety and routine, of a facade hiding the reality behind a shiny veneer.

The sisters, together with Charlie – Dara’s husband – run the company; all was well, until one day it wasn’t. A fire not only shakes the studio, but the foundations of their repetitive lives as contractor Derek enters and throws everything off-balance for the trio. But it’s not as cut and dry – as with the motto itself, what appears true on the surface is often hiding ugliness beneath. What begins as a question of motive and how Derek will disrupt the core trio becomes an unravelling of what secrets already lurk where they stand.

The Turnout is a dance that begins slowly and lures the reader in – Abbott’s writing is razor sharp, offering a precise dissection of complex relationships, sheltered family, sexuality and secrets. Within the beauty of these dancers’ lives is a darkness left to be peeled, layer by layer, until the dying pages. Ominous and unsettling, The Turnout drives the reader to seek answers.

Virago, 3 Aug, £14.99