Astonish Me is a novel set in the New York City Ballet world. Joan is a corps dancer for a top NYC ballet company during the 1970’s and 80’s (styled after New York City Ballet) and her correspondence with famed Russian dancer Arslan Ruskov prompts him to ask her help in defecting to the United States. A novel that jumps back and forth to different points in time, Astonish Me attempts to point out some very accurate details of the life of a dancer, while at the same time, borrowing some real-life stories (and people) to weave into this novel.
I’ve read quite a few ballet biographies, enough to know that Shipstead’s character “Mr. K” was fashioned after “Mr. B – George Balanchine.” Also, Ruskov’s defection story is very similar to Mikhail Baryshnikov’s, but the Ruskov character seemed more akin to Rudolf Nureyev.
I did enjoy the Ruskov defection story. Without it, the book wouldn’t have kept my interest. But too much of this novel falls into the deepest depths of chick-lit, and that’s not my cup of tea.
3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2014
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