Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
Astonish Me follows the story of Joan, a young ballerina in the 1970s; Arslan Ruskov the Russian dancer Joan helped defect; and Jacob, Joan’s childhood best friend. Told from alternating perspectives the story moves from the ballet studios of New York and Europe in the 1970s to the suburban paradise of California in the 80s and 90s. While the story moves slowly, Shipstead’s writing is amazing and the characters, while not all likable, kept my interest.
It doesn’t hurt that I have a slight obsession with all things ballet. Pretty sure it stems from my lack of grace and dance ability. I hate to admit, if I saw the first cover I wouldn’t have read the book. The pretty pink ballet ribbons drew me in, but now that I read the book, I love the first cover.
The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close
When I picked up this book all I knew about it was that the author wrote Girls in White Dresses (which I loved) and that it took place in DC during a political campaign. Turns out the main character’s name is Beth, her husband’s name is Matt and he hails from the DC suburbs of Maryland. I saw a few other similarities between myself and my Matt and Close’s characters, but I think that has a lot more to do with her ability to write realistic characters, with regular jealousies and fears and flaws.
And that is what I love about The Hopefuls. Yes, Beth is passive, but there are so many passive people out there in the world. We can’t only read about one kind of person. Yes, Beth and Matt are kind of awful to each other at points, but again, nobody is perfect. I get the sense that Close is a very insightful and introspective person, because I don’t think this book could be written by someone who is not honest with themselves.
This one of the few times I read a book on e-reader since there were so many quotes I wanted to highlight, but since it’s a library book I didn’t. And now I’m totally the actual quotes, but I know there were a lot of good ones!