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Astonish Me by [Shipstead, Maggie]
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Astonish Me Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Product Description

Review

‘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

About the Author

Maggie Shipstead graduated from Harvard in 2005 and earned an M.F.A at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was also a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her debut novel, Seating Arrangements, won the Dylan Thomas Prize and the LA Times Prize for First Fiction. Astonish Me is her second novel.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1354 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Publisher: The Borough Press (8 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GLGUYZS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #84,879 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I adored this novel, about a ex-ballerina and what her life is like once she is married and no longer dances.
I thought the writing was absolutely beautiful and I strived to read through the pages slowly, savouring each word and sentence. I felt it was a sensuous novel, beautifully describing the world of dance and the sacrifices ballerinas make, what Paris is like, and also the way in which we all make sacrifices and transform as we grow older.
I cared immensely about Joan, the protagonist, to the extent that I sometimes wanted to shout at her, for falling for the wrong boy and not always being able to show the man who does love her that she loves him back. I was really gripped by the story and felt fully immersed into it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having enjoyed Maggie Shipstead's debut novel, Seating Arrangements, I was looking forward to seeing what she would follow that up with and Astonish Me didn't disappoint in the slightest. I suspect I may have especially enjoyed it because it's set in the world of ballet, which I've loved ever since having ballet classes as a little girl, and I was only too happy to get the chance to delve back into it again. (I also think it helped that I'd just finished reading Christos Tsiolkas' Barracuda, which also deals with gifted individuals and the sacrifice and dedication required when trying to excel at something you love doing, and also the frustration felt when you don't quite achieve your goals. They're a good book pair!)

Astonish Me focuses on Joan, and it follows her and her family, friends and neighbours, and ballet colleagues and rivals, switching back & forth from different points in their lives between the early 1970s up to 2002, until all the pieces fall into place. And yes, they might have fallen into place a little too neatly at the end but it worked for me. I think that's because I really felt for her as a character, and even though I didn't always like the choices she sometimes made, I could see that they eventually got her to where she should have been when she first took them!

Astonish Me is an excellent read. Maggie Shipstead writes so well and so assuredly that Astonish Me seems like an effortless accomplishment, in much the same way that you don't see the hours and hours of practice and repetition and bleeding feet when a ballet dancer performs flawlessly on stage. It's a dazzling novel and one that I got thoroughly caught up in reading.
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By Denise4891 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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