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Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
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Astonish Me

by Maggie Shipstead

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"Etonnez-moi" was a saying by Sergei Diaghilev the Russian ballet master. Astonish Me. #TBT to a book published in 2014 that's been on my list to read for awhile. It was the highly anticipated second novel by Maggie Shipstead and I thought it was brilliant. But I've also been around the ballet world for over 20 years so I understood every nuance she described from tendons to summer programs. The novel spans several decades and is broken into four parts. It follows Joan (a very good but will never be great ballet dancer) from her childhood with her best friend Jacob to her professional years when she helps a Russian dancer defect (think Baryshnikov) to America. Upon becoming pregnant, Joan marries Jacob, retires from the ballet company and moves to suburban LA where she teaches ballet and nurtures budding dancers including her son and her neighbor's daughter, Chloe. The children grow and become competitive dancers themselves and things get very interesting. I'll leave it at that so as not to provide any spoilers! If you've ever danced, been a dance mom or been obsessed with ballerinas, you will love this book. Regardless, the writing is superb but I think anyone not familiar with the industry could get bored with the details of her descriptions. My favorite passages were when Chloe was a mouse in the Nutcracker. I felt like I was back in the theater watching my girls during dress rehearsals. ( )
  MyArmchairAdventures | Sep 5, 2017 |
A stayed-up-to-finish-it book — and I don't even like ballet. ( )
  dcmr | Jul 4, 2017 |
Bravo!
Nothing earth shattering happens in this novel, but I found myself unable to stop turning the pages as if I was reading the most edge-of-your-seat thriller. Shipstead's ability to immediately hook the reader with her writing prowess isn't loud and aggressive, but more subtle and gentle, an enjoyable experience that leaves you wanting to read more by this gifted author even before the last page is turned. ( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
Maybe my expectations were too high, but I felt very lukewarm about this book -- the milieu was interesting, but the characters weren't, and I thought that the whole thing was pretty predictable. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
“Though she would never say so, Sandy holds the opinion that mothers who keep their figures have sacrificed less than mothers who have widened and softened.”

This book was so real and relatable. The main character is broken and, at times, a terrible person, but I slowly grew to love her. She sees her faults and slowly fixes them. The book was easy to read and very enjoyable, but I was not expecting that major plot twist. Again, I may be naive and it might have been obvious to other readers what was coming, but I audibly gasped and I tore through the rest of the book. I thought this was a wonderful read. ( )
  Ahtoosa | Aug 29, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804165599, Audio CD)

From the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Seating Arrangements, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize: a gorgeously written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the passionate, political world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations.

Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. While Arslan's career takes off in New York, Joan's slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry's success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present.

In graceful, inimitable prose, Shipstead draws us into an extraordinary world, and the lives of her vivid and tempestuous characters. Filled with intrigue, brilliant satire, and emotional nuance, Astonish Me is a superlative follow-up to Shipstead's superb debut.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:02 -0400)

"From the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Seating Arrangements, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize: a gorgeously written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the passionate, political world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations. Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the U.S. While Arslan's career takes off in New York, Joan's slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry's success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present. In graceful, inimitable prose, Shipstead draws us into the lives of her lovably tempestuous characters. Filled with intrigue, hilarious satire, and emotional nuance, Astonish Me is a brilliant investigation into the bonds that hold us, despite the distancing of time and geography"--… (more)

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