Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Review: Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Title: Astonish Me
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Vintage
Publish Date: January 5, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: ""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."

My Two Cents:

"Astonish Me" is the story of Joan, a woman who gave up her dream of being a ballerina after she marries someone from her hometown and has a baby. But before that, she helped a dissident from the Soviet Union flee the country. Arslan is a wonderful dancer and is able to have a very successful career in the United States. He and Joan will move in and out of each other's lives throughout this book in very surprising ways.

I had heard a lot about this book and about Shipstead's writing, which is what initially drew me to this book. While far removed from that world, I have always been fascinated by the high stakes realm of ballet. It seems so competitive and so exciting so the subject matter also interested me. The story started a little slow for me. I kind of felt like I was being held at arm's length from the characters. Joan is a very shut off character and because of the action in the story, she really has to be. I wanted to understand her motivation more so that I could engage with the story better.

This book has some major twists and turns that really kept me engaged and wanting to read further. Shipstead does a good job of continuously turning everything that the reader thinks that they know on its head. It was these twists that really kept me reading! Overall, this book was a little dry for me and I wanted to be more "in it."



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