The Girl With Glass Feet
So welcome to the first book of May, on the first day of May. I'm sort of glad that this book came along as I had considered that I was giving largely positive reviews to most things I read. A real reviewer for say a broadsheet sort of gets what they're given in terms of books to review, I however am choosing mine. It stands to reason that the books I'm choosing, are getting picked because I think I may like them. Therefore I think it sort of comes as a refreshing change in terms of my blog that I didn't like this much.
It was shortlisted for the Costa in 2009, and Amazon had been foisting it at me in 'Recommended For You' I think based on the fact that I had bought 'The Help' and I was looking for a 'light' book. The Guardian described it as 'Magical'. I do not concur.
It's a magical realism tale, an impossible event couched in real world parameters. Ida Maclaird returns to St Hauda's Land, a fictionalised island I took to be intended as similar to the Scottish Hebrides. Her feet have begun to turn to glass and she seeks to discover a strange man she encountered on a previous visit whom she hopes will help her.
The other main character is Midas Crook, an isolated photographer who begins a friendship with Ida.
The allusion here is obvious, in Greek Mythology Midas turned all he touched to gold, our Midas has a problem with touch and is afraid to touch Ida, not merely in case she may turn to glass. Despite being a rather original idea, a modern twist on an ancient myth, subtle, the allusion isn't.
The mystery of what causes her glass feet is never resolved which I found annoying, and I found many of the behaviours of all characters unrealistic. Why didn't she go to a real doctor? Why didn't she become a victim of a media circus? Why is nearly every character, particularly the male characters, isolated, socially stunted and emotionally disturbed, so they all become overly similar? It's a bit naff.
There is an overarching theme of frustrated love in which no character ultimately gets what they want and most love affairs reach a dead end for various reasons such as unrequited love, death and mental illness. In short, every love story in this book is tragic, morbid and a bit depressing. You aren't swept away on a tide of magical romance.
In all writing, however much you enjoy reading it you often find a sentence or two perhaps a paragraph that for you is a truth. A general truth or a personal truth but a human truth nonetheless.
I particularly enjoyed the following lines :
"It didn't take tragedy or war to derail a man. It took only a memory."
"As if you could terminate love abruptly because the one you loved signed papers with someone else in a church"
"Was there something embryonic between them or had she simply misunderstood him?"
I liked all these quotes and felt the emotional reality of them. The first one particularly resonated with me as I consider myself someone who has experienced the phenomenon of being "derailed by a memory" but had never thought of it in exactly those words before. I liked the phrase.
In spite of a few nice lines however, I did not essentially think much of this book, it was fairly short, and so a quick read which was a blessing considering. I think that this book would disappoint more readers than it would please, approaching expecting one thing and experiencing another. Perhaps I have a heart of stone, but I was not moved, despite assurances from Amazon reviews that I would be.
I would say that this book falls under the "don't read that" of the blog title, but I am going to add a point for the three quotes I liked. 5/10