The key to enjoying Maggie Shipstead’s “Astonish Me” is to not question the plot or the characters that are presented to the reader. Do not try to love the characters, because you won’t; don’t try to guess where the plot is going, because you’ll probably figure it out. But like her previous novel, “Seating Arrangements,” there is something enjoyable about just embracing the story for what it is. Shipstead’s writing is clean, and flows nicely, allowing the reader to gently float along with the narrative.
As I mentioned before, I found the novel to be predictable and slightly contrived, but to quote the oft used phrase– for me, “Astonish Me” was less about the destination and more about the journey. Told in small vignette style chapters, the book captures the perspectives and stories of a group of acquaintances whose lives become entwined, collide, and then separate over a period of about twenty years. While the art of dance and study of ballet plays a considerable part, I appreciated that Shipstead avoids making “Astonish Me” a novel purely about ballet. It nicely compliments the storyline, and in many ways contributes a certain thread of continuity that ties everything together.
Overall, I definitely would recommend adding this one to your Spring reading list. (On a side note, can we talk about how pretty the cover is?)
Available for pre-order from Amazon.com, this novel hits shelves on May 8th 2014.
xo The Book Bird
Disclaimer: An advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.