Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead


To say that this story had a subtle beginning would be a radical understatement.  The story builds almost painfully gradually as a love story between Joan, an aspiring ballet dancer, and the world-famous ballet-dancing Arslan, who has mysteriously chosen her to assist him in his defection from Russia in the 1970’s. Ultimately jilted by Arslan, she turns to her truest friend, Jacob, who has always loved her, and builds a life with him instead.  But about half way through, there are gradual revelations that ramp up the momentum and twist the plot around on its tail such that it ultimately becomes a book that you cannot put down.

What is as beautiful about the book as the story is the writing, which is crisp, clear, and full of pretty imagery.  The author carries the reader through changes in time and date as well as voice of narration with the utmost of grace, avoiding any flicker of confusion, but adding richness from additional perspective in doing so.  I also felt I learned quite a bit about ballet, something about which I am quite ignorant.  It gives the inside perspective on just how hard and demanding a lifestyle it is to be a professional dancer.

The moral of the story is:  Don’t give up!  This gets so very much better with every turn of the page that its worth staying with it.  Enjoy!

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