Monday, 2 August 2010

The Girl with Glass Feet - Ali Shaw


This is a truly magical book that I knew I was going to love from the minute its title caught my imagination in a book shop. It's always good to stumble across a surprise book, and this really was a lovely surprise.

Set on a fictional, snowy archipelago The Girl with Glass Feet tells the story of Ida MacLaird who has returned to the Island to try to uncover the cause for her curious illness; that her feet are turning to glass. On the island she meets Midas Crook, an introverted photographer scared to get close to anyone. As the story unfolds the relationship between the pair develops beautifully and you are totally drawn into their situation. The island is filled with a sort of magical realism that means that while reading about Ida's situation and the wonders of the island it is easy to suspend your disbelief, and I think this is the real beauty of the book. I felt an almost child-like wonder reading Shaw's descriptions of the beautiful landscapes, really feeling as if I was there. A lot of the descriptions are reminiscent of fairy tales, but a depth is brought due to adult issues and heart ache from many of the supporting characters. To me the most memorable aspect of this novel is the prose, which is particularly striking when describing the island from Midas' point of view; he sees much of the world around him as if through a camera lens and some of these passages are beautifully evocative. It is rare for me to find the prose my favourite aspect of a work of fiction, so I thoroughly enjoyed absorbing the language and turn of phrase throughout The Girl with Glass Feet. The only criticism I have is that there were two very similar sub-plots both focusing on men who had lost women to another many years earlier and had never managed to move on, which I found slightly repetitive and confusing as I wasn't sure quite why the same idea was used twice.

I can only imagine how much better Shaw may be able to make his second novel, with a stronger plot to match his talent with prose this would have been a brilliant book. I thoroughly enjoyed this bittersweet story and for anyone looking for beauty where they are able to leave behind everyday life I wholeheartedly recommend it.