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Astonish Me (Signed Book)

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Overview

From the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Seating Arrangements, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize: a gorgeously written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the passionate, political world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations.

Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, 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 ...

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Astonish Me

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Overview

From the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Seating Arrangements, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize: a gorgeously written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the passionate, political world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations.

Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, 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.

In graceful, inimitable prose, Shipstead draws us into an extraordinary world, and the lives of her vivid and tempestuous characters. Filled with intrigue, brilliant satire, and emotional nuance, Astonish Me is a superlative follow-up to Shipstead's superb debut.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Advance Praise for Astonish Me:
 
“Etonnez-moi, Diaghilev famously challenged Jean Cocteau: ‘Astonish me.’ That’s a fair description of what Maggie Shipstead did to me on nearly every page of this impressive novel. Like its subject, the ballet, this book is intricately choreographed, technically demanding, yet seemingly relaxed, written in a prose of great emotional range and acuity. I will be paying close attention to Shipstead’s career from here on in.”
—Jeffrey Eugenides

“In this exquisitely rendered story of love, loss, betrayal, secrecy, and artistic ambition, Maggie Shipstead takes hold of the reader and doesn't let go. Astonish Me is a haunting, powerful novel.”
—Dani Shapiro

“Maggie Shipstead’s prose is so graceful and muscular, so dazzling, so sure-handed and fearless, that at times I had to remind myself to breathe. Astonish Me is a treasure of small surprises.”
—Maria Semple  

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385353700
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/8/2014
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Maggie Shipstead
MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD was born in 1983 and grew up in Orange County, California. Her highly acclaimed debut novel, Seating Arrangements, was a national best seller and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize as well as a finalist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. In winter 2012, she was a resident at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, The Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, The Best American Short Stories,and elsewhere. Her story "La Moretta" was a 2012 National Magazine Award finalist.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

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2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 21, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Astonish Me is the story of Joan, an American dancer who helps a

    Astonish Me is the story of Joan, an American dancer who helps a Soviet ballet star defect. Joan is a very good dancer, but she will never be a soloist. She eventually leaves the world of ballet, marries, has a child and a new life. Years later, Joan finds herself faced with the world she left behind when she recognizes a rare, exceptional talent in her son.

    This was my first encounter with Maggie Shipstead's writing, and I was captivated from the very first page. Her writing is simply stunning. I savored every word, and I didn't want to put the book down. These characters are flawed, their lives complicated, and the connections between them confusing and messy. Yet Shipstead created characters I loved and became fully invested in.

    There was a "twist" near the end - more of a cliché, really - that I saw coming for most of the book. I was so disappointed when it finally turned up... I'd held out hope that I'd be wrong. But my disappointment was short lived: I wasn't at the end of the book yet! Shipstead took that cliché and put her own spin on it. The tension and my conflicting emotions had my stomach in knots and took my breath away. From that moment until the last page, I simultaneously wanted to throw the book across the room and hug it.

    What a phenomenal reading experience. I can't wait to read more by Maggie Shipstead.

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2014

    I devoured it in two sittings. Ms. Shipstead writes expertly, be

    I devoured it in two sittings. Ms. Shipstead writes expertly, beautifully about the world of ballet, but it's her uncompromising description of female friendship and rivalry that make this book so brilliant. One of the best novels of the year. Loved it. 
    -Moira M., Brooklyn

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2014

    I won¿t waste your time with a synopsis of the book.  I¿m quite

    I won’t waste your time with a synopsis of the book.  I’m quite positive you can get that by either reading the description and other reviews.  But let me tell you how I came to read this book.  Like you, I read what the novel is about, and decided to give it a look.  What made it even more intriguing is that my daughter studies ballet (soon to be on pointe), and although I’m not a “dance mom” (I don’t think), I am familiar with those types of parents.  Throughout the book, I found myself not really caring for any of the characters.  They were cold and unfeeling with the exception of Jacob, Joan’s husband, whom I pitied.  I also wanted to hug my daughter multiple times, and thanking her for not wanting to dance for a living (she’d rather write).  There was also the occasional time where I wanted to pull a few of her friends aside (who DO want to dance for a living), and convince them not to pursue dance.   I liked the book enough – but if this is even close to the reality of what a dancer can look forward to in life, I’m saddened.  These characters lived for dance.  And I don’t think any of them were happy.  

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2014

    I loved this book.

    Although not interested in the ballet, I found this book captivating. The story was beautifully told and realistic in how peoples decisions follow them through life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    In Maggie Shipstead's first novel, Seating Arrangements, she man

    In Maggie Shipstead's first novel, Seating Arrangements, she managed to brilliantly capture the voice of a middle-aged man contemplating an affair during the weekend of his daughter's wedding. I was so impressed with Shipstead's beautifully crafted sentences, it was like she spent hours making each one perfect.
    In Astonish Me, Shipstead once again drops us into a world we don't know. We feel what it's like to be a part of a ballet company, the competition, the discipline and way one must give oneself completely over to become a dancer worthy of being part of a ballet company. Like athletes, at some point everyone must come to the realization that they are no longer good enough to go to the next level.
    The novel moves back and forth in time, and we see Joan as a young dancer and then as a wife, mother and teacher. Joan's husband has loved her forever, but sometimes he feels she doesn't love him or their life as much. He says to Joan:"Most of the time now you're here with me- really here, invested; it's not like it was at first- and I think, she's letting me know her, really know her the way people do when they're married. And at other times you're so distant it's like someone's swapped you out for a forgery. You seem like you're going through the motions."One of the most interesting characters in the novel is Elaine, Joan's friend from the dance company. She is a better dancer than Joan, and has a long-time relationship with the dancer who founded their company. Shipstead could have another entire novel from Elaine's point-of-view.
    Astonish Me is another brava performance from Shipstead. Joan is a fascinating protagonist, so complicated and although she is so closed up, Shipstead lets us see inside to who she really is. Fans of ballet will definitely like this insider's look.

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  • Posted July 28, 2014

    This book did not astonish me.  Neither did it captivate me or e

    This book did not astonish me.  Neither did it captivate me or even hold my interest for very long.  As another reviewer opined, the characters seem cold and unlikeable, and the ballet world described is certainly not a pleasant place to be.  I finished the book, but towards the end, I started skimming faster and faster, because I simply didn't care what happened.  What a sad bunch of people.

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    This was beautifully written and very well done.

    This was beautifully written and very well done.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted July 16, 2014

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    Posted April 28, 2014

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    Posted May 27, 2014

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    Posted May 1, 2014

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    Posted July 3, 2014

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    Posted April 17, 2014

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