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The Resource Astonish me, Maggie Shipstead

Astonish me, Maggie Shipstead

Label
Astonish me
Title
Astonish me
Statement of responsibility
Maggie Shipstead
Creator
Author
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Summary
"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 U.S. 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 the lives of her lovably tempestuous characters. Filled with intrigue, hilarious satire, and emotional nuance, Astonish Me is a brilliant investigation into the bonds that hold us, despite the distancing of time and geography"--
Storyline
Tone
Writing style
Character
Review
  • /* Starred Review */ Languishing in the corps de ballet of a premier New York company while her lover, internationally renowned dancer Arslan Ruskov, is captivating critics and audiences, Joan becomes pregnant and reunites with her high-school boyfriend, Jacob, now a doctoral student in Chicago. Though they build a life together for themselves and their son, Harry, Joan can never escape the role she played in helping Arslan defect from the Soviet Union. As she makes tentative peace with her new status far away from the footlights as a suburban mom and strip-mall ballet instructor, Joan pins her hopes on salvaging her career relevancy as she guides her neighbor’s daughter, Chloe, to professional status. However, it is Joan’s own son who astounds everyone by becoming the sought-after new prodigy. When he and Chloe cross paths with Arslan, the finely tuned life that Joan and Jacob constructed comes crashing down as long-held secrets are exposed in a particularly brutal way. Readers who reveled in Shipstead’s sardonic comedy-of-manners debut (Seating Arrangements, 2012) will rejoice in the emotionally nuanced tale of barre-crossed lovers and the magnetic, mysterious world of professional dance. A supple, daring, and vivid portrait of desire and betrayal. -- Haggas, Carol (Reviewed 02-01-2014) (Booklist, vol 110, number 11, p20)
  • 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.) --Staff (Reviewed February 3, 2014) (Publishers Weekly, vol 261, issue 05, p)
  • In the mid-1970s, Joan Joyce embraces the rarefied atmosphere that is the world of ballet. A member of the corps with little hope of gaining stardom, she is launched into the headlines when she helps her lover, the brilliant Russian dancer Arslan Rusakov, defect from the Soviet Union. Their romance flames out as his career soars, and Joan marries her childhood sweetheart, Jacob, raising their son, Harry, and running a dance school in California. Harry and Chloe, the girl next door whom he has loved since as long as he can remember, are both consumed by ballet as they grow up under Joan's tutelage. As Harry's gifts become more apparent, he is brought to the attention of Arslan, with explosive results. VERDICT Recipient of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction for Seating Arrangements , Shipstead moves her story back and forth in time with the same seamless precision found in the details of a beautiful ballet, capturing the brutality of the training, the impossible perfection on stage, and the messy fallout that erupts when personal and professional lines blur. Expect renewed interest in her first novel. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/13.]— Beth Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI --Beth Andersen (Reviewed February 1, 2014) (Library Journal, vol 139, issue 2, p68)
  • After satirizing privileged WASPs in her prize-winning first novel (Seating Arrangements, 2012), Shipstead investigates another rarefied world: ballet. When we meet Joan in September 1977, she's tired of her going-nowhere career in the ballet corps of a prestigious New York company, where she's primarily known as the discarded lover of star performer Arslan Rusakov. She's also pregnant after a summer visit to Chicago to seduce her high school pal Jacob. The rest of Part I depicts their tense marriage—scarred by Joan's bereavement over leaving ballet—from son Harry's infancy through the mid-1980s. This strong setup is anchored by Shipstead's sensitive portrait of the couple's uneasy relationship and their complex friendship with Southern California neighbors Sandy and Gary Wheelock, whose daughter Chloe is Harry's age. It's a jolt when Part II jumps back to 1973 in Paris, where Joan is transported by Arslan's dancing and "wants some piece of the fearsome beauty he has onstage." We already know she helped him defect from the Soviet Union, so it feels unnecessary to get a detailed account of it and of the subsequent unraveling of their affair in New York, partly because autocratic artistic director Mr. K judges (correctly) that she's not good enough to dance with him. It takes a while for Part III to regain the lost momentum as Chloe and Harry study ballet, he becomes obsessed with his mother's connection to Arslan, and it becomes clear that Harry is a major talent. Anyone who hasn't figured out who Harry's real father is long before the flashback that jarringly opens Part IV simply hasn't been paying attention. Shipstead again recovers in excellent final chapters that allow Chloe to emerge from Harry's shadow, put Harry and Arslan onstage together, and offer tentative hope for Joan and Jacob's battered marriage. But the denouements provided for the novel's many well-drawn characters would be more satisfying if readers hadn't been distracted by flashbacks that serve no compelling artistic purpose. Perceptive and well-written though marred by its peculiar chronology.(Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2014)
Assigning source
Provided by publisher
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
10298062
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Shipstead, Maggie
Dewey number
813/.6
Index
no index present
LC call number
PS3619.H586
LC item number
A88 2014
Literary form
fiction
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Ballerinas
  • Secrecy
Target audience
adult
Label
Astonish me, Maggie Shipstead
Instantiates
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Dimensions
25 cm
Edition
First edition.
Extent
253 pages
Isbn
9780345804617
Lccn
2013026781
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
System control number
  • 854285679
  • (OCoLC)854285679
Label
Astonish me, Maggie Shipstead
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Dimensions
25 cm
Edition
First edition.
Extent
253 pages
Isbn
9780345804617
Lccn
2013026781
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
System control number
  • 854285679
  • (OCoLC)854285679

Library Locations

    • James City County LibraryBorrow it
      7770 Croaker Road, Williamsburg, VA, 23188, US
      37.377573 -76.770995
    • Williamsburg LibraryBorrow it
      515 Scotland Street, Williamsburg, VA, 23185, US
      37.377573 -76.770995
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