Advertisement
Books

The Turnout by Megan Abbott: An edgy and unpredictable tale

Megan Abbott’s nerve-shredding latest uses ballet as a backdrop to discuss murder, lust and self-destruction

 The Turnout by Megan Abbott is a book that takes a deep dive into the world of ballet, blending nerve-shredding noir plotting with sharp psychological insight. Abbott is an extraordinary writer, and her more recent novels have focused on finding the secret cracks in the relationships that women have with each other in highly pressurised environments.

She has dealt with the worlds of gymnastics and scientific research of late, and she adapted her most famous book, Dare Me, for Netflix, delving into the troubled psyches of cheerleaders in small-town America.

The Turnout focuses on sisters Dara and Marie Durant who, along with Dara’s husband Charlie, run the Durant School of Dance following the accidental death of their parents. There are already tensions between the three of them when they hire a contractor, Derek, to do building renovations. Derek is a classic alpha male, a macho and confident juxtaposition to the delicate and thoughtful world of dance as he struts around the place. When Derek and Marie form an inevitable and dubious bond, things go from bad to worse for everyone, leading down a classic noir trajectory that takes in lies, deceit, lust, violence and eventually murder.

Abbott has always written brilliantly about the hidden desires of women, and The Turnout takes that to new heights. The sisters’ difficult relationship with each other and the memory of their parents are entirely believable, and she writes so well about our subconscious impulses for yearning, belonging and self-destruction.

The hothouse ballet backdrop is a perfect sounding board for these ideas, with classes full of fresh-faced girls desperate to succeed in an intensely competitive environment, and Abbott masterfully weaves elements of classic ballet narratives into her scintillating and sensual main story. This is simply a masterclass in great storytelling and writing, an edgy and unpredictable tale full of nuance about the violence we inflict on others and ourselves.

The Turnoutby Megan Abbott is out on August 3 (Virago, £14.99)

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Support The Big Issue Winter Appeal

Big Issue vendors can’t work from home and with severe weather warnings on the cards, they face a very tough and uncertain Winter period ahead.

Recommended for you

Read All
The best indie books of the year 2021
Books of the Year

The best indie books of the year 2021

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders: The Big Issue Book of the Year 2021
Books of the Year

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders: The Big Issue Book of the Year 2021

The Big Issue's best children's books of the year
Books of the Year

The Big Issue's best children's books of the year

Book reviews: The Killing Hills and The Shadows of Men
Book Review

Book reviews: The Killing Hills and The Shadows of Men

Most Popular

Read All
Maxine Peake on Hillsborough drama Anne: 'The criminal justice system can be a very hostile place'
1.

Maxine Peake on Hillsborough drama Anne: 'The criminal justice system can be a very hostile place'

Peter Hitchens: I am a Trade Unionist and I favour nationalization
2.

Peter Hitchens: I am a Trade Unionist and I favour nationalization

5 new laws for 2022 - and what they mean for your rights
3.

5 new laws for 2022 - and what they mean for your rights

William Shatner: Humanity won't survive to reach a Star Trek future
4.

William Shatner: Humanity won't survive to reach a Star Trek future