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Extended Audio Sample The Master’s Muse: A Novel, by Varley O’Connor Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Varley O’Connor Narrator: Coleen Marlo Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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“We set our sights on each other almost from the beginning.”

So begins The Master’s Muse, an exquisite, deeply affecting novel about the true love affair between two artistic legends: George Balanchine, the Russian émigré to America who is widely considered the Shakespeare of dance, and his wife and muse, Tanaquil Le Clercq.

Copenhagen, 1956. Tanaquil Le Clercq, known as Tanny, is a gorgeous, talented, and spirited young ballerina whose dreams are coming true. She is married to the love of her life, George Balanchine—the famous mercurial director of New York City Ballet. She dances the best roles in his newest creations, has been featured in fashion magazines and television dramas, socializes with the country’s most renowned artists and intellectuals, and has become a star around the world. But one fateful evening, only hours after performing, Tanny falls suddenly and gravely ill; she awakens from a feverous sleep to find that she can no longer move her legs.

Tanny is diagnosed with polio, and Balanchine quits the ballet to devote himself to caring for his wife. He crafts exercises to help her regain her strength, deepening their partnership and love for each other. But in the years that follow, after Tanny discovers she will never walk again, their marriage is put to the ultimate test as Tanny battles to redefine her dreams and George once again throws himself into his art.

The Master’s Muse is an evocative imagining of the deep and complicated love between a smart, beautiful woman and her charismatic, ambitious husband; it is the story of an extraordinary collaboration in art and in life.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “What a rare pleasure to be introduced to Tanaquil Le Clercq through The Master’s Muse. I was enchanted from the first page by Varley O’Connor’s graceful portrait of this remarkable woman. How privileged we readers are to have the life in all of its strength and intelligence and elegance. Le Clercq is rendered without fuss or ornament, in a manner wholly at one with the beauty she and Balanchine strove for in their art.”

    Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • Loving Frank was a novel about architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most scandalous love affair. The Paris Wife centered on the first Mrs. Ernest Hemingway. Into this group of well-researched novelizations of famous love lives comes Varley O’Connor’s The Master’s Muse, about New York City Ballet artistic director George Balanchine.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “A thoroughly researched and lively tribute to both the couple and the essence of a private, dauntless woman struck down by polio at the height of her career.”


  • “O’Connor’s book confines itself to their sixteen-year marriage, and though the author’s note suggests that she never met her protagonists, she has clearly done her homework—consulting the archives, familiarizing herself with the repertory, collecting details about the decor of their Upper West Side apartment, and the arrangement of the furniture in their house in Weston, Connecticut.”

    New York Times Magazine

  • “A highly readable, absorbing account of the interdependence between Tanaquil Le Clercq and George Balanchine. A must read for dance fans.”

    Washington Independent Review of Books

  • “Graceful and penetrating…This passionate novel not only gives a glimpse into the ballet world of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, its eccentric characters bring the story to life.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A masterful portrait of the woman who served as muse not only to Balanchine but to some of the pivotal personalities in the development of modern art. The Master’s Muse reads like a troubled love letter to art, dance, and creation—and the complexity and betrayal of a life spent in their service.”


  • “O’Connor, the daughter of a polio survivor, has done her research, and her well-written novel reads like the memoir Le Clercq herself never wrote.”

    Library Journal

  • “This is not a novel about victimization or the malevolence of genius but rather about the painful accommodations all of us make for the things and people we love. Thoughtful, tender, and quite gripping, even for readers unfamiliar with the historical events the author sensitively reimagines.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “A brilliant novel in memoir form, The Master’s Muse is pure magic. As I read and was thoroughly absorbed by the writing, the remarkable characters, and the story, I simply could not believe this was a work of fiction, not an authentic memoir, expertly written. The Master’s Muse is a superb performance by Varley O’Connor. From one writer to another, my hat’s off.”

    Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife

  • “An utterly gorgeous rendering of the life of ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, whose career was destroyed overnight by polio in 1956. O’Connor vividly recreates the personalities and intrigues of the dance world of the fifties and sixties, but her greatest triumph is in her fascinating portrait of the steely Le Clercq and the enigmatic Balanchine, who first made her his perfect ballerina, then married her, and ultimately betrayed her.”

    Adrienne Sharp, author of The True Memoirs of Little K

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About the Author

Varley O’Connor is the author of three novels, The Cure, A Company of Three, and Like China. Her short prose has appeared in Faultline: Journal of Art and Literature, AWP Writer’s Chronicle, Driftwood, Algonkian Magazine, the Sun, and in an anthology, Naming the World and Other Exercises for Creative Writers. In fall 2007 she joined the faculty at Kent State University, where in addition to undergraduate creative writing, she teaches fiction and creative nonfiction writing in the Northeast Ohio Universities Consortium MFA program.