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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review; Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

It's hard to write a review of this book. It's hard to even know where to begin.

Joan did grow up to be a professional ballerina, as had been her dream, but she knows her talent and hard work will never get her out of the corp. One day in Paris, she sneaks in to the theater to watch the famous Soviet dancer Arslan, rehearse. She seduces him afterwards, and he then enlists her in his effort to defect. While her dancing is not enough to make her famous, her driving Arslan over the Canadian border to America, is. But it's not enough. Joan didn't want to be famous. She wanted to be a prima ballerina. And Arslan is now engaged to a fellow Soviet defector (and a prima Ballerina.) When her dreams are dying, she finds she is pregnant. She had visited her old high school friend Jacob and she says he is the father. Her roommate Elaine accused her of doing it on purpose in order to quit ballet. Joan denies it. But Joan and Jacob marry and move to California, leaving her old life behind. Except that ballet is in Joan's bones, and she can never truly leave it. As the years pass, ballet comes back into her life in an important way, leaving Jacob feeling left out and suspicious.

I've read many raving reviews of how masterful this novel is, and while I agree that it's well done, and I only figured out the twist moments before the characters did, I didn't find this to be one of the best books of the year. It certainly has reignited my lifelong love of ballet. And it made me glad there was never a fleeting moment of hope for my own professional aspirations. The book really gives a good inside view into the world of ballet, and how it is so much harder and more taxing than it looks, emotionally as well as physically. The characters are well-drawn, but I do wish there had been more of a plot. Still, it was a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I checked this book out of the library.

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