Saturday, 22 March 2014

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

An elegantly written story of the world of ballet, talent and the search for perfection.

Joan is a young dancer who realises she's already reached the peak of her career and will never get beyond the corps de ballet. Her brief fame from helping the great Soviet star Arslan Rusakov defect and the resulting love affair are long over and she takes her ticket out by marrying the reliable Jacob. They move to California with their son Harry, but has Joan completely given up her hopes for ballet?
It becomes apparent that Harry is a prodigy. His ongoing obsession with Arslan Rusalov and his desire to be a top class dancer draws the family back into the intense world of ballet and opens up secrets from Joan’s past.


The story flits backwards and forwards in time, shifting narrators to show differing views, although Joan remains the central character. The insular and demanding world of dance is described beautifully; the egos, demanding schedules and the perpetual struggle to improve. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and although the “twist” wasn't a surprise, the story is so involving I still wanted to know how things would be resolved. All the characters have their flaws and some seem very lightly sketched. The younger Joan is an empathetic character, but once she becomes a mother she seems more distant and merely an extension of Harry. However, I did have a sneaky admiration for Elaine, with her determination, persistence and her love for Mr K.
Overall, it’s a fascinating and captivating read and I love my dance themed books!  Give it a go.


I received a free proof copy of this book through lovereading.co.uk
Thank you.