A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight. ~ Robertson Davies ~
I don't remember exactly when I picked up that copy of As the Waltz Was Ending by Emma Macalik Butterworth, but I'm pretty sure that it was somewhere around the 4th or 5th grade. The autobiographical story of a young ballerina in pre-WWII Vienna gripped me from the beginning. I had likely chosen the book from the library shelves because, as a young dancer myself, I enjoyed reading books about dance. Little did I know, however, that the book would end up being one of those stories that sticks with you for life.
If I remember correctly, the autobiography is divided into two parts. Part 1 primarily details Emma's daily life and her beginnings with the corps de ballet in Vienna. Slowly, in the midst of the color and grace of the dancing world, you begin to see the influence of the Nazi regime as they push into Austria. Part 2 follows the shattering results of the Russian occupancy of Vienna.
I can't be certain what it was about the story that drew me in so completely, but as Emma vividly described the air raids over Vienna, I found myself listening for raid sirens in the background. For the next several years after reading As the Waltz Was Ending, I was fascinated with the World War II time period.
A few months ago, I found a used copy of the book on Amazon (it's currently out of print). It's been sitting on my book shelf ever since, but I've been hesitant to open its pages...afraid that the experience of reading it won't live up to the one in my memory. It's taken awhile, but I think I'm finally ready....