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on 8 November 2007
Kavanagh's "Nureyev" is another first-rate dance biography, fully matching her marvelous account of Frederick Ashton. Nureyev was more a great star than a great dancer, yet his impact on male ballet dancers worldwide was transformative. Before Rudi, they were mostly earthbound dullards, either crudely straight or mincingly effeminate; after Rudi, men in ballet became nearly as turned out, pulled up, and extended as ballerinas, with a protean animalism that enabled them to live gay yet seem to love their women onstage.

Unlike her predecessor Richard Buckle, whose dance bios read like transcribed engagement books, Kavanagh offers a nearly perfect balance of details and distillation, compellingly tracing arcs in her subject's life. She pays extra attention to Rudi's first years in the West, richly detailing his two key relationships--with Margot Fonteyn, whom he ignited just as she was about to retire, and with Eric Bruhn, the one dancer he would learn from and the love of his life--plus the recasting of his dancing into a fusion of Russian and Western. Rudi's restless gay life is all there, yet without prurience. Eventually he settled down, for a time, with Wallace Potts, an all-American gay boy whose goodness and devotion shine through very attractively (other acolytes followed). In these pages, Rudi lives just like a coddled star athlete: no matter how beastly his conduct, somebody always satisfies his needs and keeps his ego fully inflated. A fine biography and a great read.
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on 28 January 2008
Julie Kavanagh seemingly had access to a number of people important in Nureyev's life who had never before spoken to a biographer. Given this, it's surprising that she seems to have so little regard for her subject either personally or professionally. If you want to read about what went on in the gay bars of New York in the 60s and 70s, then this is the book for you. If you want to read about a dancer and director who had a significant effect on classical dance in the second half of the last century, look elsewhere. Nor will you find an account of the complex and interesting man who was Rudolf Nureyev. And beware: the book is peppered with factual inaccuracies.
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on 27 January 2008
Rudolf Nureyev, one of very few icons of 20th-century high culture who entirely transcends the art form in which he earned his fame, deserves a biography befitting his status. In Julie Kavanagh's Rudolf Nureyev: The Life he has found one. I knew next to nothing about ballet before picking up this wonderfully hefty volume. I came away from it wanting to rent every available DVD of Nureyev dancing. The author finds a way of walking the layman (or woman) through the complex technical passages, explaining exactly how his greatness grew out of a combination of cussed perfectionism and a charismatic humanity that cannot be worked up at the barre. But the exhaustively researched narrative is about so much more than dance. You turn the pages eager to discover what fresh celebrity he will befriend, which new city he will conquer, which nose he will put out of joint. It is a riveting portrait of an epically complex man - a sensitive monster, a Soviet-reared libertine who accumulated homes, money and lovers with unbridled avidity. His biographer does not flinch in the face of the bestialities, although she is also careful to attribute them to a horrific childhood and the shock to Nureyev's moral system that came with his dramatic escape to the west. The story of his rise is intoxicating. The story of his decline is almost unbearable. The dying fall of the last fifty pages, his powers bled away by arthritis and Aids till he ended up living all but ferally like Prometheus on a lonely Italian rock, counts as the most powerful climax to a biography I've ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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on 10 July 2013
A lot of new data and photos, extremely well researched and fascinating for anyone interested in this charismatic dancer. You are in the swinging sixties for quite a while and Julie Kavanagh is bringing the era very vividly .Rudolf was very much in the midst of everything and yet there is always his overwhelming passion for dance...
I would say among all those biographies published since his death, if you have to chose only one, then this one is 'the definitive'
Chantal Simoneau
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on 11 August 2011
I'm staggered by some of the critical reviews here; I find it a very sympathetic, beautifully written and seemingly well-researched account. I fell in love with him. A narcissistic, impetuous, difficult man with (delightfully) filthy language - but also a hard working, striving-to-learn genius, and a kind and generous friend. A fascinating, essential balletomane read.
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on 11 July 2009
I did not expect to be so move by Nureyev's life - the narrative has a pattern which is something like "wanting and achieving goals despite all the odds and then being rejected". And then it starts all over again. And again. An extraordinary mix of monstrous behaviour and not finding his place in the world. He could be cruel but the game was not fair. Sometimes I wanted to get more sense of what Nureyev was thinking and feeling rather than the external events but I guess it is all there in this very well told story. Probably the most moving book I have read in a while.
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on 5 November 2012
Found myself looking at his dancing on u-tube, spellbound.
The book was rather overwritten, I gave up with 100 pages to go. Peeked at the ending.
Documenting every single performance, especially his later days was tedious. Should have summarised and concentrated on his tragedy.
There is no doubt that he was one of the most extraordinary people of the 20th century.
I am sad that I never saw him in the flesh.
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on 29 January 2014
I really enjoyed this book. I actually bought it for myself and then bought it again for my mum to read - I couldn't be parted from my copy! It was so full of detail and it didn't get repetitive or dull. There was stacks of information there and the author has not skimmed on anything at all. The end was so sad, I had to stop a couple of times and start it again later. Great read and I will be dipping back into this again.
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on 18 May 2014
Only conveys Nureyev as a kind of petulant child, and fails to give him any personality. She doesn't dare to really touch his escapades in New York. This is a book about a great artist, who might have been a monster, but surely had more personality than is conveyed in this account.
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on 1 April 2014
Am struggling by page 132. I feel as if I am listening in on salacious gossip - unfounded at that.

For a fresh and realistic insight I recommend you read his autobiography, supplemented with large doses of film clips.
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