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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

From the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Seating Arrangements, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction: a gorgeously written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the demanding world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations. Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, a young American dancer who helps a Soviet ba…

Astonish Me: A Novel

by Maggie Shipstead

Overall Book Review:

All the books I have read that have a ballerina as a main character, I have liked. I even liked the movie Black Swan, though at times I wanted to run from the room with my hands clapped over my ears…it was scaryAstonish Me reminded me of Black Swan in all the good ways. It had the twisted romance (but not the lesbian lovers), the hard training and discipline, and the longing for perfection and fulfillment. There was a little bit of flipping back and forth between time periods, but not enough to confuse me. The main characters are often described in intimate detail, I learned of their joys, sorrows, and fears as I read.

There were many different subjects that were addressed in this novel–first love, despair, dedication, marriage. I think what impacted me the most though was the emphasis the author put on never giving up on what you love and care about. If you have always been a runner, and you feel most satisfied and fulfilled when you are running, why would you stop? The same goes for many things in life, and the ballet dancers in this book paint a perfect picture of this principle.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language: 3 religious exclamations; 5 mild obscenities; 1 anatomical term; 5 F-word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  None

Sex/Nudity: Adults kiss; sex is referenced several times; sexual curiosity in adults and teens is mentioned throughout the book; one brief sex scene between adults is described with no explicit detail; two characters have a mature discussion regarding sex; gay lifestyles are mentioned briefly; a character is involved in a marital affair, with no detail given; a man is referred to as “sexy”.

Mature Subject Matter:

Gender identity issues.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Smoking marijuana mentioned; some drug use involving cocaine; adults drink.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Books and reading have always been an important part of my life. When I was very young, my grandma was the library director at our local public library. Years later, after she had retired, I became a librarian at the same library and worked there for several years before taking a part-time job at a local coffee shop, which gives me more time to do what I love, to read and to review books! A few of my favorite authors are Aimee Bender, Diane Chamberlain, and Curtis Sittenfeld however, I will read almost any book I come across! In my spare time you can find me reading (of course), volunteering at a wildlife animal rehab, or hanging out with my two house rabbits.