Monday, 10 January 2011

Review: The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

A novel to fall in love with - for anyone who loved the escapism of "The Time Traveller's Wife" and "The Memory Keeper's Daughter". A mysterious metamorphosis has taken hold of Ida MacLaird - she is slowly turning into glass. Fragile and determined to find a cure, she returns to the strange, enchanted island where she believes the transformation began, in search of reclusive Henry Fuwa, the one man who might just be able to help...Instead she meets Midas Crook, and another transformation begins: as Midas helps Ida come to terms with her condition, they fall in love. What they need most is time - and time is slipping away fast.

This novel is achingly breath taking; that’s the only way I seem able to describe it. I picked it up on a whim (again, cover’s and titles sway me) and promptly fell in love. It’s a bleak, atmospheric novel that moves along in a very quiet fashion, following the tangling lives of Ida and Midas.

The slow pace doesn’t detract from the reader’s enjoyment, it simply means that Shaw is able to prolong the ride, take note of the little details and spin the characters into living breathing people. The writing is superb – with elements of the same finely honed prose and subtle blend of fantasy and reality that made ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ one of the most well-known of this generation.

Shaw takes his time to bring the character’s to life, everything is very slow and controlled, which makes the conclusion all the more shocking. Even though it is built up to throughout, the final transformation takes place at such a speed that contrasts so well to the rest of the book, and makes it even more powerful. It’s heart breaking, and for that reason alone I would love it, but everything about this book is just so right. The quality presented in his debut novel is stunning.

I love that Shaw doesn’t feel the need to explain the mechanics of this world, and he writes with such certainty that the reader barely thinks to question the world they’re being shown – a world of miniature flying cattle, and a girl turning to glass, just like those in the past whose glass statues can be found in bogs on the island of St. Hauda’s.

I found the novel unsettling to say the least – this island seems so cut off from the rest of the world, the atmosphere so bleak and quiet, it feels as if the characters are trapped in their own little bubbles of life. However, I loved it and will continue to re-read it, because whilst I enjoyed it the first time round, that enjoyment increases the more I go back over it.

If you’re looking for a novel that captures another facet of love that lies mostly untouched, or simply want a fairy tale for adults, give ‘The Girl with Glass Feet’ a try – it’s startling in its brilliance and will stay with you long after you’ve finished.

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