The Four Temperaments

(Doubleday, 2002)

The spellbinding story of a father and son, both married, who fall in love with the same alluring ballerina. Oscar Kornblatt has been a first violinist with the New York City Ballet for so many years that he scarcely notices the throngs of eager young dancers who fill the ranks of the corps de ballet. But Ginny Valentine catches his eye, and when he comes to know her he becomes utterly enchanted by her. One night when Ruth, his quietly independent wife, is away, he brings Ginny back to his Upper West Side apartment and the two become lovers.

While the affair doesn’t last, Oscar’s attachment to Ginny continues to flourish. He invites her to join his family for Thanksgiving dinner, where she meets and falls in love with Oscar’s eldest son, Gabriel, home from San Francisco for the holiday. Gabriel, married to a beautiful, highly unstable woman, finds himself falling under Ginny’s spell. As the bonds of the family begin to erode, Ruth takes drastic and shocking measures to salvage what is most precious to her: her baby granddaughter, Isobel.

Set against the glamorous, exciting world of the New York City Ballet, The Four Temperamentsexplores the ways in which love and marriage are tested. Through its unforgettable cast of characters, this novel reveals how the demands of the flesh can suddenly, almost inexplicably, turn lives upside down. With the assurance and virtuosity of a seasoned storyteller, Yona Zeldis McDonough presents the powerfully sexy story of two adulterous affairs and imbues them with an irresistible emotional undercurrent.

“In this complex and sparkling debut, McDonough writes of marriage and infidelity with precision and grace. The characters are deftly drawn, set in the glamorous world of the ballet. Ginny Valentine is a love object you
won’t soon forget, every good woman’s nightmare, and every man’s fantasy. What a great read!”
—Adriana Trigiani, author of Big Stone Gap and Very Valentine

“I cannot resist a book about a ballet dancer, and better yet a book that takes us backstage both at the theater and at the home of Ruth and Oscar Kornblatt. The Four Temperaments blends a family saga, a love story (times two), and the narrative of an ambitious and fiery ballerina into one delicious whole.”
—Jane Hamilton, author of Disobedience and A Map of the World

“Happily married Oscar, a first violinist with the New York City Ballet, is smitten by Ginny, an ambitious young dancer in the corps. Oscar’s wife, Ruth, senses that her husband is having an affair. And if that’s not enough heartbreak for one woman, Ruth later walks in on their son embracing Gabriel. Gabriel is also married, of course. Farcical elements aside, this is a story about ordinary people blindsided by powerful emotions. Telling a complex from five points of view, McDonough effectively limns the inner turmoil of richly developed characters. Dance lovers will swoon over the setting, but you don’t need to know a battement from a releve to enjoy this fascinating, deeply human novel.
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“A ballerina has an affair with a much older violinst… and then with his son. This novel is a sexy—and cautionary—tale.”

The Four Temperaments revolves around a young, fiercely determined New York City Ballet dancer who quickly moves to the apex of a complex love triangle
set in the high cultural milieu of Manhattan’s Upper West Side: ‘It was into this bucolic landscape that Ginny Valentine burst, sudden and shocking as a sharp silver tack that lodges without warming in your naked foot.’ McDonough’s skillfully orchestrated page-turn dramatizes the inner conflicts of her seductive, mismatched characters and holds us spellbound from the start.”
O, The Oprah Magazine

The Four Temperaments is a celebrated Balanchine ballet based on the medieval concept of the body’s four prevailing humours. Ballet figures large in this strong and intriguing debut novel, though the humours angle doesn’t entirely mesh with the narrative. This morality tale of lust, ambition, love, and heedlessness centers around Ginny Valentine, a fiercely talented but amoral ballerina with the New York City Ballet who wreaks havoc in the
pleasant, orderly life of Oscar Kornblatt, a middle-aged violinist with the ballet’s orchestra. Ginny is supremely ambitious; to dance, for her, is truly to live, and nothing else comes close until she meets the violinist’s older son, Gabriel, at the Kornblatts’ Thanksgiving dinner. Never mind that Gabriel is married (and having problems with his obsessive-compulsive wife, Penelope) or that Ginny has already had an abbreviated affair with Oscar. The tragedy that ensues brings out the worst in everyone, even Oscar’s levelheaded wife, Ruth. McDonough weaves a controlled, engrossing tale replete with authentic ballet atmosphere and fraught with human frailty that unfolds in five alternating voices.”
—Library Journal

“McDonough’s gripping debut novel tells the tale of a young ballerina and the two men—who happen to be father and son—she captivates. Ginny Valentine isn’t the first ballerina New York City Ballet violinist Oscar Kornblatt has been infatuated with, but she is the first one he sleeps with. Oscar’s wife, Ruth, suspects that Oscar is having an affair with Ginny, but she isn’t devastated until she catches Ginny kissing her son, Gabriel, at their Thanksgiving dinner. Gabriel is married to Penelope, a beautiful, obsessive-compulsive woman who neurotically dotes on their daughter, Isobel, to the point of shutting Gabriel out. Though Gabriel loves his wife and Ginny is focused on her career, the two are drawn together and begin a passionate affair. Ruth fears it will all end badly, and, of course, she’s right, but the twists the story takes are surprising and unpredictable. Told in alternating chapters from the five principal characters’ points of view, the enthralling narrative pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go. Popular fiction at its most riveting.”

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