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Astonish Me

Astonish Me [Kindle Edition]

Maggie Shipstead
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Product Description


‘Passionate, gripping and wise about the human heart. One of those wonderful books that leave you bereft yet completely satisfied’ Lucie Whitehouse, author of Before We Met

‘Beautifully written, a top-class novel set in a fascinating world’ Louisa Young, Observer

‘Brims with emotion … an accomplished novel embracing both domestic drama and the competitive quest for perfection’ Sunday Times

‘So graceful, so dazzling, so sure-handed and fearless, that at times I had to remind myself to breathe’ Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Product Description

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.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 688 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307962903
  • Publisher: Blue Door (8 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,595 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 50 REVIEWER
All Joan ever wanted from the age of 4 is to be a ballerina: but how do you cope when you’re talented, but just not talented enough?

This is very good on the fierce world of professional ballet: the relationships dancers have with their bodies, the torment of knowing that you’re not good enough to ever be principal ballerina, the agonies of ageing and finding your body starting to let you down.

The story overall, though, flits backwards and forwards from the 1970s to the 2000s, and feels unnecessarily disjointed rather than organic. It’s oddly passionless, and is a little light on characterisation. Arslan, for example, with his Tatar background, his defection from the USSR, and compelling magnetism seems too obviously drawn on Rudolf Nureyev, with Mr K an analogue for Balanchine.

This is an enjoyable read which treats ballet as a challenging profession rather than something that is all froth and tutus. All the same, it doesn't quite live up to the hyperbole and hype of the blurb above - 3.5 stars.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The second act is always a tough one. 24 May 2014
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
Having adored Maggie Shipstead's début Seating Arrangements, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of Astonish Me. Was I disappointed? 'Fraid so. Despite the fact that this is relaxation reading of the highest order - well written, nothing jars, a fairly engrossing, if predictable, story of ballet folk - I couldn't really see the point of it.

If that sounds like damning with faint praise then I'll have to hold my hands up because this has none of the complexity, wit and pathos of Seating Arrangements. There are odd moments when we get a tantalising glimpse of the earlier Steadman brilliance. Otherwise, this is mainly Ballet Shoes for grown-ups. With defection, pregnancy and fraying feet. 3.5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life's a dance 21 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
After rave reviews for her debut novel, the pressure is certainly on for Maggie Shipstead to deliver with her second. Astonish Me is set in the cut-throat world of professional ballet, starting in the mid-70s with friends Joan and Elaine vying for the attention of the dictatorial choreographer known as Mr K. As you would expect, their lives are dominated by the need to keep their bodies in optimum shape for the punishing regimes they put them through, as well as the desire to be prima ballerina no matter what the cost.

Joan becomes obsessed with Russian dancer Arslan Rusakov who, this being the 70s, is trapped behind the Iron Curtain when he's not on tour with his company. When she becomes involved in a daring plot to help him to defect to the USA, Joan's gets a temporary taste of the glamorous, high risk lifestyle she's wanted for so long. The rest of the book focuses on Joan's stale marriage to childhood sweethart Jacob, and her efforts to nurture the talents of her son Harry, a promising dancer, which inevitably bring her back into Rusakov's orbit.

I didn't warm to Joan at all, which may be intentional as she's portrayed as a cold and prickly woman. Rusakov and Joan's friend Elaine appear equally ruthless but somehow more likeable, and I found the `non-dancers', particularly Joan's husband and her neighbour Sandy, the most sympathetic characters.

For someone like me who knew (or cared) very little about the world of ballet before reading the book, it proved to be a thought-provoking insight into a competitive and ruthless world. I particularly enjoyed the earlier sections which dealt with Rusakov's defection and would have preferred to have learned more about his earlier life, but I guess that's a different book altogether

(I was hovering between giving the book 3 or 4 stars, but plumped for 4 to try to balance out the unfair and distorted rating caused by a certain reviewer who gives every book he reads 1*!)
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4.0 out of 5 stars not quite astonishing but almost 7 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Interesting subject, beautifully written. Sometimes the descriptions of the ballet classes were a bit too detailed and therefore dull for my liking, but as an insight into one of the most rarefied and difficult art forms (and one of the most poorly paid), it is terrific.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 30 Jun 2014
By willow
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved this book. If you enjoy ballet, try it.
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