Astonish Me

Maggie Shipstead, Author
Maggie Shipstead. Knopf, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-96290-4
Reviewed on: 02/03/2014
Release date: 04/08/2014
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-345-80461-7
Open Ebook - 166 pages - 978-0-307-96291-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-8041-6561-7
Compact Disc - 978-0-8041-6559-4
Hardcover - 356 pages - 978-0-00-752536-2
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-00-752537-9
Hardcover - 512 pages - 978-1-4712-6761-1
Hardcover - 9 pages - 978-0-00-758144-3
Hardcover - 432 pages - 978-1-4104-7594-7
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Shipstead’s second novel (after Seating Arrangements), set mostly in California and New York in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, concerns Joan Joyce, a ballerina who abandons the dance world when she becomes pregnant. Early in her professional career, she had helped Arslan Rusakov, a famed Russian ballet dancer, defect to the West while his troupe was performing in Toronto, after which the two had an affair. But Joan marries Jacob, a childhood friend, and moves to suburban Southern California, abandoning her glamorous life of concerts and parties in New York City. Their son, Harry, reveals a gift for and a love of ballet, and his talent is such that eventually he comes in contact with Arslan. Their meeting leads to the creation of a ballet that will unite Arslan, Harry, and Harry’s girlfriend, Chloe, who is also a dancer, but that threatens to leave Jacob estranged from his son. Shipstead’s prose moves fluidly through settings as varied as a ballet rehearsal and a suburban backyard, and her characterizations are full. The story proceeds with a quiet insistence that is matched by the inevitability of its denouement. Agent: Rebecca Gradinger, Fletcher & Co. (Apr.)
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