Astonish Me

Astonish Me

A Novel

eBook - 2014
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From the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel  Seating Arrangements, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction: a gorgeously written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the demanding world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations. Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, a young American dancer who helps a Soviet ballet star, the great Arslan Rusakov, defect in 1975. A flash of fame and a passionate love affair follow, but Joan knows that, onstage and off, she is destined to remain in the background. She will never possess Arslan, and she will never be a prima ballerina. She will rise no higher than the corps, one dancer among many. After her relationship with Arslan sours, Joan plots to make a new life for herself. She quits ballet, marries a good man, and settles in California with him and their son, Harry. But as the years pass, Joan comes to understand that ballet isn’t finished with her yet, for there is no mistaking that Harry is a prodigy. Through Harry, Joan is pulled back into a world she thought she’d left behind—back into dangerous secrets, and back, inevitably, to Arslan. Combining a sweeping, operatic plot with subtly observed characters, Maggie Shipstead gives us a novel of stunning intensity and deft psychological nuance. Gripping, dramatic, and brilliantly conjured, Astonish Me confirms Shipstead’s range and ability and raises provocative questions about the nature of talent, the choices we must make in search of fulfillment, and how we square the yearning for comfort with the demands of art.  This eBook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
Publisher: [S.l.]: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014.
ISBN: 9780307962911
Characteristics: 272 p.
Additional Contributors: cloudLibrary

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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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