Astonish Me

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What to expect

The New York Times bestselling author of Great Circle

‘Brilliantly written; the first ballet novel for grown-ups’ THE TIMES

‘A bravura display of high-performance art’ GUARDIAN

‘Brims with emotion … an accomplished novel embracing both domestic drama and the competitive quest for perfection’ SUNDAY TIMES

Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, a young American dancer who helps a Soviet ballet star, the great Arslan Rusakov, defect in 1975. A flash of fame and a passionate love affair follow, but Joan knows that, onstage and off, she is destined to remain in the shadows.

After her relationship with Arslan sours, Joan decides to quit ballet and make a new life for herself. But as the years pass, Joan comes to understand that ballet isn’t finished with her yet…

From the prize-winning author of Seating Arrangements comes an exquisitely written, fiercely compelling glimpse into the demanding world of professional ballet and its magnetic hold over two generations.

‘Cleverly constructed with some elegant pirouettes of its own’ DAILY MAIL

‘A gripping mix of family drama and insight into the world of ballet’ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

‘Shipstead is a gifted writer who examines families and relationships in a poignant, insightful way’ STYLIST

‘A dazzling story rooted in the competitive world of dance’ WOMAN & HOME

‘So graceful, so dazzling, so sure-handed and fearless, that at times I had to remind myself to breathe’ Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette

I will be paying close attention to Shipstead’s career from here on in’ Jeffrey Eugenides

Critics Review

  • ‘Beautifully written, a top-class novel set in a fascinating world’ Louisa Young, Observer

    ‘Brims with emotion … an accomplished novel embracing both domestic drama and the competitive quest for perfection’ Sunday Times

    ‘So graceful, so dazzling, so sure-handed and fearless, that at times I had to remind myself to breathe’ Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette

    ‘I will be paying close attention to Shipstead’s career from here on in’ Jeffrey Eugenides

    ‘A bravura display of high-performance art, the only constant its quest for perfection’ Catherine Taylor, Guardian

    ‘Very well-written, and cleverly constructed with some elegant pirouettes of its own in the story’s twists and turns’ Daily Mail

    ‘Passionate, gripping and wise about the human heart. One of those wonderful books that leave you bereft yet completely satisfied’ Lucie Whitehouse, author of Before We Met

    ‘Shipstead is shaping up as a master storyteller’ Financial Times

    ‘Brilliantly written; the first ballet novel for grown-ups’ The Times

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