Sometimes I love a book so much that I’m afraid to read anything else by the same author. I blame this on my own high expectations, but I hate being disappointed. Sometimes I just avoid reading books by authors I love just in case they won’t live up to my own self-created hype.
Two years ago I fell in love with Maggie Shipstead’s debut novel, Seating Arrangements and I truly mean I fell in love with that book.
I think about it all the time and wish I could read more books just like it, but I also know there is something special about certain books that similar books can’t quite capture. Seating Arrangements just had that…something. I loved the story, I loved the writing–Seating Arrangements is just so perfect.
So, I was nervous to read Shipstead’s second novel, Astonish Me when it finally arrived at my library.
Astonish Me is the story of a professional ballet dancer named Joan and her relationship with a Russian dancer named Arslan. The book begins in the 1970s, when Joan helps Arslan defect from the Soviet Union, and follows her life to present day. We meet an entire cast of unique characters, like the flamboyant artistic director of the ballet Mr. K and his muse, Elaine. All of the characters are evocative and could easily be the main characters of their own books, but in Astonish Me their lives are delicately connected, and every action effects someone else’s life–much like ballet itself.
And it is such a treat.
I really enjoyed Astonish Me, maybe even more than Seating Arrangements. There’s just something so great about Shipstead’s writing. It’s poetic and intricate without being difficult to read or pretentious. And she writes about subjects I would normally find mundane–like ballet–in a way that makes me care about them. I seriously feel the desire to go see a ballet now even though I know I will fall asleep 15 minutes in.
I know a lot of readers don’t enjoy her writing, but I really enjoyed both of her books. Basically I know that I will never hesitate to read another book by Maggie Shipstead.