Fiction · Sadie J

Astonish Me | by Maggie Shipstead

Astonish Me

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
(Knopf, 2014, 272 pages)

Joan has always been obsessed with becoming a ballerina. But when she meets Arslan Ruskov, a world famous dancer, and helps him defect from the Soviet Union to join the dance company she is with, her obsession starts to change. Joan and Arslan date for a while but as Joan’s dancing abilities decline, so does Arslan’s interest in Joan. Heartbroken, Joan sleeps with her closest friend, Jacob, and when she finds out she is pregnant, marries Jacob and has a son, Henry. Years later, Joan and Jacob live in California and are realizing Henry is a natural ballet dancer and his hero is Arslan Ruskov. When the opportunity arises for Henry to be taught by Arslan, the history behind Arslan and Joan resurfaces.

I thought this was an interesting read. I loved reading about the politics and the crazy challenges that are involved behind ballet, especially involving the Soviet Union. The stories that were included about how different dancers defected from the Soviet Union to come to the United States and how that affected them were intriguing and probably not a stretch from what really happened to people. The author told the story through a series of time jumps that seemed to be in no particular sequence order but worked for slowly revealing important aspects of the characters. The result was a sort of sick web that connected the characters to each other but a good read.

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