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Literature / Dancing Shoes

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Dancing Shoes (originally released as Wintle's Wonders in the U.K.) is a young adult novel by Noel Streatfeild. It is about two sisters: Rachel and Hilary Lennox, one Happily Adopted, living in 1930s England. Initially they live with their mother in a shabby boarding house, but when their mother dies, the girls are adopted by their Uncle Tom and Aunt Cora, and end up trained in dance, with varying degrees of success.


Tropes in this work:

  • Abusive Parents: Cora subjects Rachel, and later Hilary to serious emotional abuse.
  • Apron Matron: Pursey's character is built on this.
  • Beautiful All Along: Rachel. Only Cora can't see it.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Vain Dulcie as Beauty, studious Rachel as brains and active Hilary as brawn. (While Dulcie is also a dancer her looks are emphasized more.)
  • Blithe Spirit: Hilary takes losing not one, but two sets of parents remarkably well.
  • Bookworm: Rachel.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Hilary has far more talent than she does ambition.
  • Brainy Brunette: Rachel.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Mrs Storm sets Rachel extra acting and speech exercises after seeing she enjoys their literature lessons. At the end, Rachel is pulled in to audition for a film and instantly lands the role.
    • Also a posthumous example, as it's mentioned that Rachel's father was a famous actor. Lampshaded when Cora comes under fire for not putting Rachel forward from the start.
  • Cheerful Child: Hilary is optimistic and easy-going despite everything she goes through.
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  • Cinderella Circumstances: Rachel is a textbook example. She spends most of the book being bullied by Cora and Dulcie for her plainness and difficulties with dancing, only to land a world-famous movie role in the final chapter.
  • Determinator: Don't tell Rachel to give up on something. Especially not Hilary's ballet future.
  • Dumb Blonde: Downplayed. Hilary isn't stupid, but she's less studious and book-smart than the brunette Rachel.
  • Extreme Doormat: Uncle Tom spends most of his time hiding in his art studio and won't interfere with Cora's decisions for Rachel and Hilary, even with how badly Cora treats Rachel and how unhappy Rachel is at being forced to become a dancer. He puts his foot down a total of two times: Making Dulcie apologize to her cousins for demanding they be sent away and signing Rachel on for a film role at the end.
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  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Rachel is the Responsible to Hilary's Foolish.
  • Genki Girl: Hilary.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Averted. Hilary and Rachel fit the pretty sister/smart sister dichotomy but are close, loving and deeply supportive of each other. Their main issue is that Rachel is more concerned about Hilary's dancing career than Hilary is.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Blonde Hilary is kind and good-natured, albeit with a mischievous streak.
  • Happily Adopted: Hilary Lennox with Rachel's biological parents. Averted when Cora becomes their guardian.
  • Henpecked Husband: Uncle Tom again. At one point he claims he can't get involved with "the dancing side of things", ignoring that dancing controls everything in the household, from the girl's career paths to their daily routines.
  • It's All About Me: Dulcie, thanks to her mother's encouragement. At one point Cora buys a television for the household just so everyone can watch Dulcie.
  • I Can't Dance: Rachel doesn't want to learn to dance, and although she learns enough to leave the beginner's class, she has to think hard about the steps and can't enjoy it. She dreads becoming old enough to get her license to perform.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Cora and Dulcie spend the book bullying Rachel for her looks and poor dancing, while Dulcie is spoiled and set for a glittering career. At the end, Rachel takes a massive film role right from under Dulcie's nose - not only because she's a better actress, but because her looks were exactly what the director was looking for.
  • Nice Girl: Rachel and Hilary in contrast to Dulcie.
  • Pride: Dulcie. Her fall is that Rachel gets picked to play the lead role of Vera in a feature film.
  • Plucky Girl: Both Rachel and Hilary.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Lively, outgoing Hilary and shy, bookish Rachel.
  • Stage Mom: Cora Wintle towards her daughter, Dulcie. On the other hand, she is very angry when Hilary or Rachel is more successful than Dulcie in anything. (Probably stemming from the fact whenever Cora auditioned she was too plain so was always in the chorus).
  • Technician vs. Performer: Polished Dulcie and carefree Hilary.
  • Spoiled Brat: Dulcie.
  • The Stoic: Rachel gets stiff and uncomfortable when she's unhappy and rarely cries in front of other people, resulting in adults thinking she's much more unfeeling than she really is.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Inverted. Dulcie inherits her father's good looks while Cora is the unattractive mother.
  • The Un-Favourite: Rachel to Cora, who makes no secret of it.
    • Cora's husband Tom, on the other hand, likes Rachel, and she's the clear favorite of the girl's tutor Mrs Storm, to the point that when Cora tries to send Rachel to the local school, she is forced to change her mind, as Mrs Storm tells her that she'll quit if she has to teach Dulcie and Hilary without Rachel.
  • The 'Verse: The Shoesverse, perhaps? Many of Streatfeild's book featured a character in situations pertaining to dance.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Cora definitely qualifies as a wicked step-aunt.
  • When She Smiles: Rachel is described as having a face that "easily looks sad" (and for most of the book she has good reason to be), but is lovely when she smiles.


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