Friday, March 19, 2010

The Girl with Glass Feet

The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

I was really pleased when I was offered an advanced reader copy of Ali Shaw's debut novel. I was intrigued by the synopsis. It seemed like just the kind of book I enjoy most.

The Girl with Glass Feet is the story of Midas Crook, a young man who uses his camera to shield him from the world, and Ida Maclaird, the titular character (and if there is a single protagonist it is Midas not Ida). The novel is also very much concerned with its setting, the strange, snowbound archipelago of St. Hauda's Land. The Girl with Glass Feet is a love story and a fairy tale; its also a bildungsroman.

I found The Girl with Glass Feet extremely compelling and I know it's a novel that I will want to read again. While my favorite thing about the novel were the descriptions of the creatures that Henry (a secondary character) is raising, I was also intrigued by the fate of Midas' father's manuscript and the implications of said fate.

The Girl with Glass Feet is atmospheric and sometimes dreamlike. It's not a cheery book, but it is ultimately redemptive. St. Hauda's Land is vividly imagined and hauntingly beautiful. The novel's characters, even when faced with the impossible, are authentic.

When asked about his inspiration for the novel, he replied:
I remember being on an escalator in a railway station when I suddenly saw in my mind a girl with feet made of glass. I couldn’t tell you whether something prompted it – the image is the most vivid thing I can remember about that railway station. I got home and started exploring it, asking what kind of person had feet made of glass, and how on earth would she cope? And I loved the idea that she hadn’t always had feet of glass, but that slowly they had transformed into it. Which of course meant the rest of her body was in danger of turning into glass as well.
Shaw's sketches for the book on the publisher's website. The sketches don't appear in my advanced reader copy and I'm not sure that they'll appear in the published version, but they are quite interesting to see.

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