Review: Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

astonish meI read this on my phone, and it took me a very, VERY long time to get through. Which makes me think that I didn’t really enjoy it.

The book centers around Joan, a ballerina, who is basically in love with Arslan, a Russian ballet dancer (what are male ballerinas called?) who is kind of a playa. He uses Joan for sex and then inexplicably chooses her to help him defect to the U.S. She tries to attach some kind of emotional bond to this, but Arslan just “isnt’ that into her.”

Winding back and forth between the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, the book attempts to lace together the story of Joan’s marriage to Jacob, who has been in love with her since childhood, their son Harry, their neighbors and their daughter, Chloe, as well as Arslan himself.

Joan, as the central character, receives the bulk of the scrutiny of both the reader and those around her. As a dancer, she is good, not great – she doesn’t astonish like the great Arslan. Therefore, her life seems unfulfilled. As her son, Harry, becomes the extraordinary dancer she wishes she was, and Chloe is also pursuing a career, their lives intersect with Arslan’s yet again.

If you’re planning to read the book, stop here. Please. Because I’m about to blow the whole thing up with a spoiler.

I’ll even throw in a picture of some famous ballet dancers before you go…


OK? We good?

It turns out … Arslan is Joan’s baby daddy!


I was kind of shocked when I realized this. Maybe I was even … wait for it … astonished.

Was this my favorite book I ever read? No. Not by a long shot. Was it ok? Yes. Do I think smart people would like this book? Yes I do. Do shallow and dumb people like me want to read this or skip it? I’m going to say skip, unless you really like ballerinas.

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