10 March 2014

Astonish Me; Maggie Shipstead

Astonish Me: A novelAstonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sadly, the book didn't live up to its title: I was not astonished. The promised backstage world of ballet is given short-shrift, but there's plenty of soap opera to keep people reading. The soap opera stuff is very reminiscent of "The Turning Point" with a jumble of the generations - had the author gone more down the "Breaking Pointe" route, with a greater focus on the actual ballet drama than on the interpersonal family drama it would have been a much more interesting book. Sophie Flack's Bunheads does a better job of portraying the world of ballet than this does.

The use of flashbacks and a jagged timeline don't do the novel any favors; the tension of whether Arslan will defect may confuse younger readers, as the Cold War has receded in our memory. In retrospect the story and the tension make sense, but it takes the perspective of having read the entire story to fully grasp that. Ballet aficionados will spend time wondering if Arslan is Misha or Rudy, but it really doesn't matter - nor does whether Mr. K is Balanchine, and which of his wives Elaine might be.

ARC provided by publisher.

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