Review: Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book on Netgalley from the publisher in return for an honest review*
Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead
Joan is a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. While Arslan's career takes off in New York, Joan's slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry's success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present.

Maggie Shipstead was born in 1983 and grew up in Orange County, California. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, VQR, Glimmer Train, The Best American Short Stories, and other publications. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.

The synopsis of this book is what pulled me. The ballet scene knows a lot of Russian stars who had their education on the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg. In the early twenties various of them joined Diaghilev in Paris for the Ballet Russes already escaping the revolution in Russia. This story is from a bit later though when big stars from the Russian Ballet where escorted by KGB secret agents while performing outside of Russia.
Starting with Joan being part of a ballet company just finding out she is pregnant. Giving a believable view of the world of ballet, with the hard work from early in the morning till after the show in the evening. The hard work to secure a spot even if it is just a far corner of the stage, as long as you are on it. The differences in life style of people performing on stage compared to 9 to 5 jobs.
The book tells the story from different points of view. Joan, Arslan, Elaine, Jacob, Harry. The book is written with a lot of flashbacks and it is not always clear in what time period we are. Especially with Elaine who is still working in the ballet world it took me a while to realize what the time period was. This was slowing down my reading progress significantly.
I did enjoy the plot of the story though and the developments. Though you can read trough the lines and pick up more hints about the developments in the story it was developed well enough to keep you in doubt till the last day. I really enjoyed the way the situation was dealt with in the end.

Astonish Me
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 272
Format: eGalley
ISBN-10: 0307962903
ISBN-13: 9780307962904
Knopf: eBook | Hardcover | Audiobook
Astonish Me
3 stars

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3 reacties

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13 April, 2014 delete

I loved this one! Glad to hear you liked it too, even if you got a little gummed up in the time periods.

14 April, 2014 delete

I think I'm going to like this one!

18 April, 2014 delete

I’m glad you enjoyed this one! I adored her first book but, unfortunately, put this one down because I was having a hard time getting into it. I’ll probably pick it up again at some point because everyone else is loving it and telling me to stick it out, though!