Astonish Me: A novel

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In 1974, a brilliant Russian dancer defected and sought asylum, first in Canada and then in the United States. He was aided by his American girlfriend, Christina Berlin. The dancer did not speak English and they communicated in French. The dancer was Mikhail Baryshnikov. Baryshnikov had been typecast, dancing jesters rather than princes. His defection gave him an opportunity to increase his range and roles. It also gave him access to a wide range of girlfriends in the arts, ballet and celebrity world.

The barely disguised hero of Astonish Me, Arslan Rusakov, has much in common with Baryshnikov. Rusakov’s girlfriend is Joan Joyce. Joan is dedicated to the ballet and to Rusakov. Unfortunately, her talent will not allow her to ascend from the corps de ballet into the principal ranks. Rusakov, of course, changes partners. Joan’s roommate, Elaine, under the tutelage of ballet master, Mr. K, ascends the ranks. Like the movie Turning Point, while Elaine continues a brilliant ballet career, Joan marries and has a son. It is evident that much of this novel is pieced together with true life events and fictionalized accounts of the ballet world, yet the author commands ballet jargon and captures enough intensity of the self-sacrificing ballet world to make it credible.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 253 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 2014-Apr-08
ISBN 9780307962904 Buy this Book
Issue June 2014
Category Modern Literature


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