Friday, August 29, 2014
Book Review: Astonish Me
As a ballet dancer, I was excited and intrigued to read Astonish Me, the latest from author Maggie Shipstead. The story is about a young dancer, Joan, in New York who helps a world famous male dancer, Arslan, defect from Soviet Russia in 1975. From there the plot takes many twists and turns as Joan tries to navigate a world in which she knows she will never be a prima ballerina, nor will she ever get Arslan to ever fully commit to her.
When Joan’s world is turned upside down, she has to make choices that will haunt her forever and leave her wondering what could have been if she had taken a different path.
Maggie Shipstead’s writing is new to me. I have not read her other well known novel, Seating Arrangements, and I am glad I gave Astonish Me a chance. You don’t have to be well versed on the ins and outs of ballet to appreciate this one. There is so much drama and heartfelt emotion in the story and I loved every page of it. From the suspense of the night Joan helped Arslan defect to the regret she has later on about keeping secrets, this book was packed with life.
While there are some serious moments and I sometimes wanted to shake Joan and ask her what she was thinking, the story is very well written and Shipstead brings a certain rawness to Joan that makes her lovable. While some may see her as ‘cold’, it is clear that Joan has been taught to harden her heart to eliminate the possibility of feeling pain.
Anyone looking to branch out a little from the stereotypical “Chick Lit”, this is a great place to start.
Thanks to Knopf for the book in exchange for an honest review.