Synopses & Reviews
“Bird captures the staccato passion of flamenco in a rapturous love triangle.”
“The Flamenco Academy opens so boldly . . . that you have to wonder how [Sarah] Bird can sustain such high drama. But it quickly becomes apparent that shes mapped her novels treacherous terrain and planned accordingly, building characters sturdy enough to stand firmly, even when their emotions are spinning out of control.”
-The New York Times Book Review
The first commandment of flamenco is Dame la verdad-Give me the truth. But for Cyndi Rae Hrncir, a shy seventeen-year-old, the truth is too painful to share. When Rae becomes infatuated with the devastatingly handsome flamenco guitarist Tomás Montenegro, she and her best friend, Didi, immerse themselves in the exotic world of the Gypsy dance and in the spellbinding stories told by their legendary teacher, Doña Carlota, Tomáss great-aunt. Locked in a volatile triangle and driven by obsession-Didi with fame, Rae with Tomás, and Tomás with the mystery of his origin-the three sharpen their performances, while danger, longing, and betrayal pulse beneath each step. When a heartbreaking longheld secret comes to light, Rae is duty-bound to honor the laws of flamenco and finally reveal the truth.
“The stuff bestsellers are made of . . . [The Flamenco Academy is] funny and beautifully structured to create anticipation and suspense, with lush moments of romance and a surprisingly sturdy backbone.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Good conflict makes good fiction, and thats what gives The Flamenco Academy such irresistible energy and narrative drive. . . . A heady brew of a novel, lushly romantic at one turn, wryly and wittily observant at the next.”
“A deft exploration of love, desire and jealousy told against the backdrop of that most complex of dances, flamenco.”
About the Author
Sarah Bird is the author of five previous novels: The Yokota Officers Club, Virgin of the Rodeo, The Mommy Club, The Boyfriend School,
and Alamo House
. She is a columnist for the Texas Monthly
and has written for The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, O Magazine, Glamour,
among other publications. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, George, and son, Gabriel.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. When the novel opens, Cyndi Rae and Didi are described as polar opposites who bond over the loss of their fathers. What else draws them together and drives their intense, longtime friendship? What do they get from each other?
2. The two young women in the novel end up changing their names. What is signiﬁcant about the names that they abandon, and the ones that they choose? How is Rae different from Cyndi Rae? How is Ofelia different from Didi?
3. When Rae ﬁrst meets Tomas she says: “He was brown and fully formed. His black hair, brows, the black lashes shadowing his cheeks had an etched certainty missing in the tentative pastel fuzziness of the boys I knew” (73). Why do you think she is so taken by his coloring?
4. Tomas has clearly had his share of romantic encounters. Why does the fact that Rae is a virgin feel so important to him?
5. Rae learns that ﬂamenco dancing is a series of contradictions. Technically, the rhythm of ﬂamenco is highly structured, and adherence to that rhythm is of utmost importance. But the heart and soul of ﬂamenco is spontaneous and wild. How do Rae and Didi ﬁt into this dichotomy? Do their roles change at all over the course of the novel?
6. When Didi and Rae enroll at the Flamenco Academy, Do—a Carlota becomes an inspiring ﬁgure in each of their lives. How would you describe each of their relationships with this legendary dance instructor?
7. In the novel, Sarah Bird alternates between two completely different worlds: a college campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a Gypsy community in Andalusia, many years ago. What makes each of these settings so vivid?
8. Do—a Carlota says that a true Gypsy singers voice “is the sound a man makes when the world tries to choke him to death at birth and he sings anyway.” When Rae auditions for Tom‡s, she says something similar: “This is what ﬂamenco is, knowing youre alone, youre going to die, and dancing anyway” (267). Do you think Rae, with no Gypsy blood at all, becomes a true bailora?
9. Why does Do—a Carlota feel compelled to tell the story of Rosa and Clementina to Rae? How is this story from long ago important to the novel?
10. Tomas says: “I grew up like one of the Romanovs. Like I had hemophilia, something in my blood that made me special but was a curse” (367). In what ways does ﬂamenco continue to be both a blessing and a curse to him?
11. Tomas, Didi, and Rae are driven throughout the novel by intense obsessions, but Rae is the only one who really becomes freed from hers. What do you think gives her the power to overcome her obsession? Do Tom‡s and Didi have more in common with each other than either had with Rae?
12. Do you think, in the end, that Rae regrets her friendship with Didi? Have you ever had an intense friendship like the one shared by Didi and Rae? If so, is it still working, or did it fade or burn out over time?