Astonish Me

Astonish Me

Book - 2014
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"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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307962904
Branch Call Number: Fiction Shi
Characteristics: 253 pages ; 25 cm


From the critics

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May 01, 2018

Very interesting, bigger-than-life personalities abound in this romantic tale that plays out over decades. A beach read. Enjoyable even to this 64-year-old married male.

ArapahoeKati Jun 28, 2017

If you ballet, you might like this. I've heard others say it's a bit dry but I liked the dryness of Shipstead's writing.

Mar 26, 2016

The title of this book is based on a quote from Diaghilev who used to tell his dancers in the Ballet Russes, “Astonish me.” Joan and Elaine are dancers and roommates in New York before Joan quits ballet and moves to California when she becomes pregnant. The books skips around through time, following Joan as she tries to make it as a dancer, then becomes a mother, and becomes a ballet teacher. A lot of the characters are based on real people. Mr. K is clearly based on Balanchine, and Soviet defector Arslan is clearly based on Baryshnikov. The plot is also very similar to the storyline of The Turning Point. People who like ballet will appreciate the different themes throughout the book: ethereal dancers vs fiery ones, academic gifts vs balletic ones, and American ballet vs Russian dance.

athompson10 Mar 19, 2016

You don't have to know anything about dance to like this book. A novel about wanting and not getting. Really well done.

May 07, 2015

Reading this book was like enjoying your favourite drink from Timmies. Slow but lovely.

mvkramer Jan 28, 2015

Gave up at page 64 - just....nothing was happening. Sorry. I've been conditioned to only read books with murders, explosions, spaceships, and/or wizards.

Bunny_Watson716 Sep 10, 2014

I really enjoyed "Seating Arrangements" and I can't wait to read this one!

madison382 Jul 03, 2014

After reading this book, I have a better understanding of ballet, and what goes on behind the scene. It was well written, and entertaining as well.

Jun 22, 2014

Wonderful character study with very interesting, fully formed characters. I don't care about ballet, but I respect someone's passions and obsessions. I couldn't care less about wine, but I loved the movie "Sideways," so don't pass on this if you don't know a pirouette from a pas de deux. A nice mix of serious drama with plenty of levity. Four stars.

sass35 Jun 17, 2014

i love ballet and i love reading about ballet.the beginning started off so interesting.two ballet dancers and the men in there lives than one haves a baby and then it gets a little boring but hang in there towards the end of the book it makes up for it. all and all a very interesting book.

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