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on 3 May 2016
This is a slightly odd fairy tale/magic realism/romance which definitely has charm and is very engaging. The main character in the book, in my opinion, is the setting: St. Hauda's land. From the very beginning the reader realises that they are in a new landscape: a space of magic (where one look from a creature can turn you snow white), or something in the atmosphere can transform your feet into glass (cinderella-style) and where there are tiny flying moth-cows. The characters in the book: Midas (who seems to have autism), Ida (the girl with the glass feet), who he falls in love with and who 'saves' him somehow, the obnoxious bullying Carl and Midas's equally obnoxious father are all well-written and vividly drawn.

As a fairy tale, it's, because whereas in the land of fairy tales you normally know where you stand (and can fairly confidently expect a happy ending) here the certainty is not at all there. We, as readers, are literally in a foreign land. The unexpected is part of its charm.

I also liked the rendering of the romance in the novel. There was a lot about the economy of romance in this: what the characters owe each other because of their emotions for each other and how they demonstrate this. Romance is something you wouldn't normally apply an economy too (in traditional thought), but it seems to me to be a fairly persistent feature of a lot of romantic novels (from 18th century Romances to Mills & Boons). This novel shows that aspect of the rendering of a literary romantic relationship (in my opinion). Definitely worth a look if you like this kind of thing.
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on 19 March 2011
The Girl with Glass Feet is a modern-day `grown up' fairytale by Ali Shaw. The story is unusual and captivating, and is one which will linger with me for a while.

Midas Crook is a lonely photographer who lives on a small fictional island. He believes that allowing people into his life only complicates matters and is haunted by the memories of his dead father. He spends so long analysing his thoughts, actions and feelings and comparing them with his heartless, bully of his father, and fears becoming him. That is, until he meets Ida MacLaird, visiting from the mainland. He's not necessarily attracted to her, but he finds her interesting and mysterious and wants to know her. Especially, her very odd feet in her big black boots.

As the story progresses, you learn of the transformation that is taking place - Ida is turning to glass, from the feet upwards. Putting trust in Midas, she enlists his local knowledge of the island. Having seen something magical here years before, she believes there must be someone on the island who can enlighten her about her condition.

The story is unusual and beautiful. The description of the magical island, with it's deadly jelly fish, captivating glowing lights, and it's herd of flying bull moths is stunning. Ali Shaw's writing is full of elaborate, beautiful descriptions of the island's nature. While the fantastic poetic writing is hypnotic, it's not the easiest to read unless fully concentrating, as it flies backwards and forwards between time, places and people. While it's a love story, there's nothing typical about it - it's a very unconventional love story and it's not until the very end when you realise it was a love story at all.

There are many characters that become involved with Midas and Ida - people who they search out help from, and friends who become worried for them both along the way. The writer dedicates whole chapters to these supporting characters and you learn about their loves and losses along the way, such as Henry, the man with the bull moths who loved Midas' mother; Carl, who was in love with Ida's mother and, subsequently, loves Ida as when he looks at her, he sees her mother; and Midas' father who is resented for the way he treated Midas and his mother. All the characters are real and believable as they are all flawed in some way and due to past hurt, they struggle to love.

It's a really beautiful, magical book. A fantastic, poetic fairytale, written itelligently. With the chapters jumping through time, written from different points of view, it does take some concentration and I found myself going back to re-read paragraphs to work out which character the writer was referring to by `he' or `she'. But, despite this, I found myself unable to put it down and entranced by the story.

Currently, this particular book is only £1 for download from the Kindle Marketplace...it's most definitely a bargain at this price!
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on 22 July 2011
The Girl With Glass Feet is one of those rare reads that grab you and hold you hostage, unflinchingly until you have devoured the story. It has the eerie, almost ethereal qualities like the Time Traveller's Wife, but also firmly footed in our reality.

Ida Maclaird returns to the strange St Hauda's Land. The first time she visited, it was for a holiday. Now it's for a cure. Ida encounters the recluse and socially awkward Midas Crook as he is lost in his world of photography. As a native islander, Ida hopes Midas can help her find the one person she believes can give her the answers she has been searching for.

When Midas stumbles into Ida's life, it opens up a life time of old wounds that had never healed, only scabbed partially over. The story flits effectively from the present to the past, revealing a loveless and often cruel father and a lifetime of regrets that come from almost every character. Except Ida herself.

It struck me as ironic that the Ida, the girl with glass feet, has nothing to fear. She has lived a full life and even though she is slowly turning into a hardened mineral, she is the wholest of all the cast of characters, the only one who does not fear what is to happening to her. She has no regrets.

The Girl With Glass Feet is a romantic story with a warm heart, but it wasn't until I finished the book that I realized it was a cleverly disguised paranormal romance. With strange creatures that have the ability to turn anything it looks at to pure white, or the cattle-moths, or glass bodies hidden in bogs, St Hauda's Land is like no other place. It has an other-wordly quality to it that at times feels fantastical, at others like it could easily happen.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Ali Shaw has created something very special, and it should be adored by everyone. Seriously.
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on 14 February 2012
This book was shortlisted for the Costa in 2009, and Amazon had been suggesting it to 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.
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on 2 June 2011
It was the title of this book that initially caught my attention, initially I thought it would be a sort of Cinderella rewrite but although it's magic this isn't your typical fairytale and once I'd read the short blurb I just had to read the story to find out what happened to 'the girl with glass feet'.
The setting for the story, St Hauda's land is stunningly described, both harsh and beautiful. These two characteristics are perhaps mirrored throughout the book; Ida's horrific condition is described so beautifully which defines the idea, fascinating, I was both appalled and entranced by her story, it was awful but I had to keep reading to see how her story panned out. Equally the other magic elements of the story had both beautiful and tragic elements. The magic-realism of the story means that the magic is neatly woven into the world of regular characters and unless you can accept the strangeness and the make-believe elements then this isn't the right story for you.
The characters were well developed, Midas especially was well thought out and his character developed through his friendship with Ida. Ida's character became defined by her condition particularly towards the end of the book but her determination to accept her condition and to try to not let it define her showed her true strength. Some of the minor characters were also so well described that their strengths and weaknesses were aptly defined in so few lines.
This book absolutely captivated and entranced me, it was so beautiful and I would recommend it to anyone who is able to completely let the magic take over and show them the impossible. Take a chance on Ali Shaw's début novel. Beautiful.
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on 22 January 2011
There is an island, somewhere off the coast of Scotland, where all the men are slightly aloof, self-centred and strange, and where magical things live and roam and happen.

On that island, a girl (Ida) meets a guy (Midas) who is completely absorbed by his camera and has incredible tunnel vision. But she has a secret, and he has a past.

Wait, that sounds a bit naff. Really, "The Girl with Glass Feet" is a fairy-tale-esque story about Midas, Ida, and the events that shaped his life (and some of the other characters who have a role to play). It is told in relatively short chapters, which bounce from timeline to timeline depending on what is remembered or mentioned in the previous chapter. The blurb on the back kind of gives away where the story is headed right from the start, so don't expect huge plot surprises. Instead, expect to read a well-written collection of chapters with some elements of magic and magic realism in it. Also expect a whole lot of characters who don't really function. There's an awful lot of lonely people here, with a core of sadness, loss, or rejection. The most functional two characters are a father and his daughter - who have lost the wife/mother in a tragic accident. Everyone else is even more sad, even more isolated, and while many character consider reaching out, and some even try reaching, most never build up any connections. It is a novel that feels just a little infused with loneliness. It is a novel that enjoys wallowing. (No wonder some count it as an "emo" novel)

It is well-written, and has some quite beautiful aspects. On the whole, I would recommend it.

Just a little warning though: Almost all the female characters in this novel are dead, dying, or have had their souls killed by men. Some of the men grow because of this, others don't. But as themes go, "men growing as characters through the deaths of women" is not perhaps one that feminist readers might enjoy...
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on 19 September 2013
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Personally, I was a little disappointed.
The book is well written, in a language that is not too simple but not ostentatious either and easy to read, in fact difficult to put down.
But the story is letting itself down. Everything is fine until 3/4 into the book when, suddenly, the characters seem to change personality! A completely introvert person becomes normal after a hug, for example, and suddenly you start thinking 'well, that's not right' although, at the same time, you have no problem with someone having glass feet...Saying that, I enjoyed it, but I couldn't help thinking it could have been so much better.
I feel that the writer got pressured into finishing the book quickly and it shows. But I look forward to her next book to see how she has improved because you can see there's a lot of potential.
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on 22 September 2010
This is a wonderfully atmospheric novel in which the strangeness of the islands chimes perfectly with both the strangeness of the events and of the characters. As others have said it is a modern fairy tale, although one written by the Brothers Grimm rather than Disney. Personally, I think that is a good thing.

My only (minor) complaints in an otherwise faultless story are firstly that I would have liked a better steer on where the fictional islands are; they sometimes go to the 'mainland' but one has no idea whether that is a Scandinavian, a Scottish, a Canadian or some other mainland. I know that it is fiction and that we should fill in some of the blanks ourselves but when picturing the islands and, especially, their inhabitants it would have been helpful to know how they related to the rest of the world. My only other comment is that there were lots of dysfunctional male characters who, sometimes, were too similar to one another.

Having said that I really enjoyed this book and I can't wait to see this author publish another. This was also the first novel I read on my Kindle and that was a good experience too!
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on 1 February 2011
***Spoiler Alert***

From the first few paragraphs describing the landscape, I had a gut feeling that if St. Hauda's land was real it would be off the coast of Scotland. It is winter, Ali Shaw amazingly expressed the weather and it's effects on places and people. With the fusion of Winter blues and the Melancholic atmosphere throughout the narrative the author created a feeling of genuine realism and it draws you in.

It becomes apparent that St. Hauda's land is oddly magical, the magical creations continue the general theme of melancholy but add intrigue.

Most of the characters within this enchanting book are I believe identifiable on some level. I myself felt a real affinity with Midas Crook, he has his camera to observe the world but also to use as protection from anything that is out of his comfort zone. It is obvious that he is dysfunctional due to his parents who teach him all the wrong things via their actions. This is a very real scenario perhaps not to the extent with Midas' parents but a parents humanity will inevitably leave their children with some issues. I think Midas is a lovable and charming character.

Ida I felt coped rather well with her affliction that is a theme throughout the book and true to most people I know with their own problems, towards the end of the book she began to avoid the seriousness and implications of her affliction. You don't learn much about Ida's past and I think for that reason I found no real connection with her, I myself am not turning to glass so I found it difficult to truly empathise.

As Midas begins his reluctant friendship with the strange girl from the woods he learns the reason for her far to big boots. I felt that Midas experienced an obligation to Ida which develops on both sides into a romance that is awkward in every way and is too much for either of them to face. I felt the development of love between them was compellingly realistic.

As for each of the wonderfully, impossible magical creatures, I believe the lack of explanation was setting the scene for the impossibly difficult to comprehend state of Ida. They just were, just as Ida's glass feet were. All in all the magical elements became believable and very real to me.

Throughout, my heart went out to Midas, the strong emotions I felt were for him and him alone.

I felt the ending was perfect although to explain why would give it away to much. See what you think.

Beautifully written and most certainly worth a try to see how it feels to you. Enjoy.
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on 2 December 2017
I have never read a more depressing book. At no point does anything good happen, its unrelenting misery from beginning to end. All set in a bleak cold landscape. I suppose the one good thing is the protagonist moves on at the end.
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