Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Julie's Review: The Girl with Glass Feet

Summary: The cold northern islands of St. Hauda's Land are home to strange creatures and intertwining human secrets in Shaw's earnest, magic-tinged debut. Ida Maclaird returns to the archipelago to find a cure for the condition her last visit brought her—she is slowly turning into glass. The landscape is at once beautiful and ominous, and its residents mistrustful, but she grows close to Midas Crook, a young man who, despite his intention to spend his life alone, falls in love with Ida and becomes desperate to save her. Their quest leads them to Henry Fuwa, a hermit biologist devoted to preserving the moth-winged bull, a species of insect-sized winged bovines; to Carl Mausen, a friend of Ida's family whose devotion to her mother makes him both ally and enemy; and finally to Emiliana Stallows, who claims to have once cured a girl with Ida's affliction. Each of these characters' histories intertwine, though their motivations surrounding Ida are muddled by their loyalties. Both love story and dirge, Shaw's novel flows gracefully and is wonderfully dreamlike, with the danger of the islands matched by the characters' dark pasts.

Review: I don't read fantasy books or sci-fi but what caught my interest about The Girl with Glass Feet was the comparison to Alice Hoffman and I do enjoy the mysticism in her books. This is also a debut novel and I always love to read new writers. The book is more fable than fantasy but you do have to suspend belief at times. St. Hauda's Land doesn't actually exist. I know because I googled it. To me a place like this might exist off the coast of Finland. I'm not sure why I think that but Finland seems about as good a place as any.

We meet Ida Maclaird because she's suffering from a strange illness and has come back to the island to find a cure. She thinks a man she happened upon a year ago when she first came to the island can help her. Almost from the beginning of the book you feel for Ida. As we begin to discover her, we find out that before she was afflicted with being overcome with glass, she was quite an adventurer. She lived life how she wanted to and did a great many.

Before we meed Ida, we meet Midas. Midas is a lonely person and quite miserable. The only thing he loves is his camera and his photographs. He views life through his camera lens. He doesn't experience it. He's caught up in becoming his father, whom he despised.

We also meet Henry Fuwa, who is the man that Ida thinks can help heal her affliction. He's a strange man who is consumed with raising moth-winged cattle/bulls. He's completely closed himself off from the world and human contact.

While the stories do intersect, the end of the book leaves you hanging on the purpose of why they had to intersect. This is book is very interconnected so I can't go into many details surrounding the stories but the ending of the book has an excellent resolution on a few different levels.

Even though I'm not a fantasy lover, this book can resonate with anyone who just wants a good story. The way Mr.Shaw rights puts you right in St. Hauda's Land. I can honestly say I've never read a book with such different landscape. This landscape is just as much a character in the story as any of the people. It definitely sets the tone for the book. You know it's going to be a deep and dark book.

While I liked reading about the characters, I didn't really connect with any of them. I found them interesting and intriguing but not able to identify with them. The most complex character was Midas. Although to me he was one of those characters that you wanted to shake tell him to quite living in the past and just live. Quit worrying about your father and the shadow you think he's holding over you.

What I like to see is growth from characters and you get that with the novel. If a character(s) don't have an epiphany then the writer has not done their job. Mr. Shaw does this eloquently.

Mr. Shaw is a gifted storyteller and I look forward to reading any future novels from him. Not only is a gifted writer but apparently quite the artist as well. If you click here to see his drawings of the creatures of St. Hauda's Land.

I want to thank Jason at Henry Holt for sending me this book.

Final Take: 3.75/5


stacybuckeye January 16, 2010 at 4:54 PM  

The comparison to Hoffman would have drawn me in too. Great review.

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