Astonish Me

Astonish Me

Book - 2014
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From the prize-winning author of Seating Arrangements comes an exquisitely 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 shadows. After her relationship with Arslan sours, Joan decides to make a new life for herself. She quits ballet, marries a good man, and settles into the rhythm of Californian life with 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. Inevitably Joan is soon pulled back into a world she thought she'd left behind and back to Arslan. Gripping and dramatic, Astonish Me is a story about the nature of talent, the choices we must make in search of fulfilment, and how we can never truly escape from the secrets of the past.
Publisher: London, Blue Door,, 2014.
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780007525379
Characteristics: 356 pages ; 24 cm.


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AL_KATI 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.

Chapel_Hill_KatieJ 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.

anitafournier Jun 03, 2014

Yawn. This book was a total bore. Unless you are a ballerina.

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