Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

The Girl with Glass Feet, Ali Shaw’s debut novel, is a wonderful modern day fairy tale.  Set on the fictional archipelago of St Hauda's Land, the story centers around Ida Maclaird and Midas Crook.   While on summer holiday in the islands, Ida has a chance encounter with a man named Henry Fuwa, who mentions in passing glass people buried the bog on the island.  After she returns home, she notices that her toes are turning into glass.  That winter, she returns to the island in search of Henry, who is the only person who may be able to tell her what is happening to her.  Instead, she finds a reclusive photographer named Midas, who becomes her companion for the rest of the book.

As with most debut novels, there are a few issues of flow.  There are a lot of flashback scenes/chapters, some of which feature Midas’ father who has the same name.  Midas’ growth as a character is about dealing with his memories of his father and separating himself from those memories, so it makes sense that part of the time the reader should be guessing which Midas Shaw is talking about, but it did make for some confusing moments.  There are also some questions about the world that never really get answered.  For example, Shaw tells us that glass people are not a new phenomenon on the islands, as he tells us of two other named instances as well as an anonymous third.  There’s also a creature that turns everything it looks at white, and Henry Fuwa keeps a heard of moth-bulls.  There’s a lot of fantastic/mystical/mythical elements to this landscape, yet the islanders themselves don’t see it.  No visiting mainlander has ever sat down and asked just what is going on here, as Shaw has given us the impression that St Hauda’s Land may very well be a place in our own world, perhaps somewhere off the coast of one of the British Isles.  And while you might expect islanders not to explain their world to themselves, Ida is a mainlander who returns to the island in search of answers.  Neither she, nor the reader, gets many.

Over all I did enjoy this book.  I enjoyed the dreamy quality of it, as well as the characters and their growth throughout the book.  While not your typical fantasy novel, fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffengger while almost certainly enjoy it.


Post a Comment