I have always been interested in ballet, especially since an ill-fated and VERY short career in dance class as a child. Since then, I have read a lot of books and watched shows like Dance Academy (which I love so very much and cannot wait for the movie shows up, thanks to Forever Young Adult for getting me into the show AND the movie news). So, when I saw Astonish Me on the buy 2 get the 3rd free at a local bookstore, I snagged it. And, ended up devoting too much time to this book, and did not really read anything else while reading it.

Joan has a seemingly happy ‘retirement’ from her days of ballet, as she settles in California with her husband, Jacob, and her son, Harry. She had been a ballerina in the 70s, travelling the world; most people do not know she is also responsible for assisting in the defection of Arslan Rusakov from Russia. As the years move on, and as Joan’s son becomes closer and closer to the girl (and Joan’s protégé) next door, and a prodigy in the dance, Joan’s carefully created world begins to unravel—especially when a secret that threatens the very fabric of her family comes out.

I loved reading Maggie Shipstead’s novel; Astonish Me is her second novel and features a clear voice, masterful storytelling and a world so riveting that it made me stop reading other books as voraciously as I normally read them (I’m a multi-book reader at all times, usually), just so I could focus on Maggie’s book. I was so excited to visit the world created.

Harry and Chloe (the aforementioned girl next door)  are just around my age, so it was great to take the snapshots of their lives in chapters and remember the way it felt to be [X{} age at that time. I felt for Harry, especially as he was younger and an adolescent.  As he got older and pulled into the dance, it was less easy for me to get sucked in.

Chloe was a character that I wanted to hate, but seeing the way her mother interacted with her, as well as the way Joan taker her under her wing, I realized that she grew and became less awful—just like girls tend to do as they grown into women.

I was saddened to read that something I was anticipating (waiting for the other toe shoe to drop, per se) did end up happening, but I really enjoyed that the characters dealt with it in a realistic way.

Additionally, the different times features two different couple stories, and could function well as well-developed stories on their own.

I cannot wait to read Shipstead’s debut, Seating Arrangements based on my love of this novel. I really think that ballet fans, as well as fans of good writing will enjoy Astonish Me and allow themselves to get lost in The Danse.

This book is available in hardcover, trade paperback , ebook and audiobook from your favorite retailer—check it out today.

Author: gothamgal

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