Book Reviews

Ali Shaw – The girl with the glass feet book review

A mysterious metamorphosis has taken hold of Ida MacLaird – she is slowly turning into glass. Fragile and determined to find a cure, she returns to the strange, enchanted island where she believes the transformation began, in search of reclusive Henry Fuwa, the one man who might just be able to help…Instead she meets Midas Crook, and another transformation begins: as Midas helps Ida come to terms with her condition, they fall in love. What they need most is time – and time is slipping away fast.

I’m used to weird books. I mean, I had a go at Everything is Illuminated and Kafka on the Shore so I know what I’m saying. But this book is a whole new species of weird. The characters seem to be inter-connected and carry weird loves/fetishes for the parents of the people involved. And the disease: slowly turning into glass and dying off – is as much fantasy as the tiny bulls with wings that Henry breeds. And as the cast grows, the harder it is to keep track of who loves who and who everyone is in relation to each other.

To tell you a secret, I bought this book in May and I only finished it today, in July. It’s puny (by Stephen King or George RR Martin standards) – sporting only 225 pages in the hardcover edition and I should have been able to devour this book in no more than three hours. Instead, I found myself putting it down and picking something else instead.

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“I should take a photo.’
‘No. Just remember it, and us in it.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is a poetry in the words, but sometimes this seems to work against the plot and it does not advance the storyline in no ways that I could see.

“One day, I learned that a single look can change everything. And since then I have seen it countless times. I have grappled to understand it and failed. For instance, all it took was a look from another man for my wife to fall out of love with me. It baffles me that a simple alignment of eyes can cause so much devastation.”

Ida discovers that – tendon by tendon, vein by vein – she is slowly turning to glass. It begins with a splinter-sized piece on the sole of her foot and slowly starts spreading up her legs. In desperation, she travels back to the place it all began: St. Hauda’s island, a monochromatic land of ice but also a magical land of tiny, moth-winged cattle and an unnamed creature that turns everything it sees pure white. Here, Ida meets Midas Crook, a painfully introverted photographer who becomes Ida’s constant companion. As the two search desperately for a cure, Ida, out of pure need for connection and love, violently cracks the more metaphorical ice surrounding Midas. Dragging him out of his shell of inhibitions and memories, she forces him to be fully present and fully alive now, with her, before it’s too late.

What I liked: The magic side of the book: the island, the marsh, the cold winter, even the flying herd and the slow and irreversible transformation into glass.

What I didn’t like: the characters are lifeless at points, sitting around, timid to a fault.

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