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on 16 August 2010
I thought this was an unusual story that was beautifully written and stayed with me long after I'd finished it. I do agree in part with some of the reviews but the book is described as a fairy story for adults and it is just that. I found Ida's condition and the random elements of magic and mystery connected to the Islands perfectly in keeping with the whole story. I didn't feel any need to question them or expect an explanation. As a first novel I thought it was exceptional and I enjoyed it far more than many stories I've read by more established and experienced authors who, in my opinion, excel in writing ability but don't necessarily have the same imagination to create such a strange and beautiful story. Read it and make your own mind up, but definitely an author to watch out for.
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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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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 12 January 2013
I was so excited to start this book, it looks beautiful and the story is so original but within the first couple of chapters I found it hard to follow. I really wanted to like it but found little to encourage me to do so. A concept that seems so magical to begin with ends up too sentimental and unbelievable towards the end.
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on 28 January 2013
If you accept that people are adrift in their own neuroses, that love can bloom and die without warning, that bad things happen to the undeserving, and more - trust to the fact that this is how it must be in this uncertain world... then you will enraptured by this book.
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on 29 January 2014
touchingly weird book of strange people in a strange island ,superb storyline of disjointed lives and a love that lasts
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on 27 July 2010
"The Girl with the Glass Feet" is a grown up, European fairy tale set on a fictional northern archipelago where nature asserts itself in strange ways. Although a magical tale, the story is modern, containing real life experiences. I believe it's Ali Shaw's debut novel after his English Lit. degree.

I don't think I was sufficiently in touch with my imagination the first time I read this book - and after a second read I still can't connect with miniature flying cattle!! However, this is a hypnotic novel with an atmosphere all of its own and Shaw writes finely honed prose. His writing is very English and the story is told at a gentle pace. I think it's a young person's read, but that could be because the author himself is only in his twenties.

Exuberant Ida MacLaird, from the mainland, meets an introverted photographer, Midas Crook who was born and bred on St. Hauda's. She tries to rescue Midas from the past and he tries to rescue Ida from the future. If you changed her condition to an earthly incurable desease, I feel the story would stand alone - without the flying cattle!

But this is an imaginitive first novel full of love, but also the power, limitations and consequences of love. Although only around 300 pages it isn't an easy, or even a comfortable read at times, but it is hauntingly beautiful when Shaw paints his fictional setting in those cold Nordic hues.

I found most of the characters interesting as they were flawed; not all likable, although they were engaging - but oh how the author makes the women suffer! I also think there must be 'something' in the names of the progtagonists, 'Midas' & 'Ida' besides touch - as her name is within his, but I didn't work it out.

For me, Shaw's debut novel lacks experience, but is rich in invention; set to improve.
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on 14 March 2011
As someone who generally avoids books labelled 'fantasy' or 'fairytale', I had some misgivings about a novel whose blurb describes a girl turning to glass. However, thanks to Ali Shaw's vivid depiction of the mythical St Hauda's Land (which I pictured as one of the more remote Scottish islands) and the engaging characters at the chilly heart of the story, I was easily able to suspend my disbelief and get swept up in the magic.

Following a mysteriously troubled childhood, Midas Crook exists as if he were the one made of glass - shielding himself from human interaction in his isolated cottage, and only engaging with the world from the safety of behind his camera lens. Until, that is, he meets island visitor Ida MacLaird, who shakes him out of his solitude. Ida is warm, passionate and full of life, but her strange condition - steadily turning to glass from the toes up - threatens to stop her in her tracks.

Together, this strange pair embark on a quest to find a cure for the spreading glass. This leads them to the eccentric Henry Fuwa, a man who breeds mythical creatures and holds the key to the secrets of the island - including some uncomfortable truths about Midas' own family.

I found this a capitvating read that took me to another world: although elements of it are pure fantasy, the feelings of love and loss it evokes are firmly rooted in reality. It only loses one star for a few loose ends (Henry's moth-winged cattle initially seemed to have huge significance, but that plot line ultimately fizzled out) and for the slightly jarring character of Denver, an overly precocious child.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 September 2011
This is such an unusual book and although it is one that I enjoyed overall, it may be somewhat of an acquired taste. Sometimes I felt confused and irritated by the strangeness and other times I was charmed and fascinated. It feels strangely disconnected from time and place but then is rudely brought back to modern day by the mention of mobile phones etc. I often thought there were hidden meanings that I was just missing and that if you saw through the words there was some other imagery or meaning. I couldn't get it though, maybe it wasn't there?!

The text is very poetic and there are often very beautiful descriptions, it does interrupt the flow of the story though and sometimes I felt a little frustrated wanting to skip read some of it. I don't tend to read books more than once, but this is probably one that would benefit from a more careful second read.

I would recommend this book as a piece of unusual contemporary fiction to readers that like to try something different.
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Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Girl is slowly turning into a glass statue.

Ironically, the central story is sometimes one of the less weird aspects of "The Girl With Glass Feet," a delicate spun-glass novel by Ali Shaw that barrels over the border of magical realism right into all-out fantasy. Shaw's prose is nothing short of exquisite, but the magical atmosphere also serves to make the characters -- even the protagonists -- feel like elegant little dolls, and not like people.

Midas Crook is the town weirdo, that guy who can only connect with the world around him through the lovely pictures he takes. But then he encounters Ida, a beautiful, drably-dressed girl wearing enormous boots, and after taking a picture of her, he falls in love. Unfortunately, Ida did not come to the island because she wanted to -- her feet have turned into glass, and apparently it's going to spread upward until her entire body is transmuted as well.

Naturally, Midas joins her on her quest to find some sort of cure for her affliction, which she believes can be found on the island that she originally came from. As the two race against time to find a cure, they encounter a strange web of island inhabitants -- and love begins to bloom between the two. But is it worth loving someone when they only have a brief time left?

My brain wants to call "The Girl With Glass Feet" a tale of magical realism, but it veers so far into the realm of fantasy that the tag barely fits. There are tiny flying cows, glassy corpses buried in the mud, and a creature that turns everything white -- and of course, the central love story is complicated by the fact that Ida's body is slowly turning into a glass statue, irreversibly and inexorably.

The loveliest part of this novel is the prose, and how Shaw painstakingly sketches this magical island. It's all white snow, pale shadows and grey seas, with an eerie dreamlike quality that makes it feel almost like a tiny world unto itself. The problem is while the eerie, delicate prose is enough, the fanciful additions feel like overkill. The writing is exquisite by itself, but the flying cows and magical creatures wandering over the island make it feel like the author is saying, "See? Magical stuff here! It's such a weird, otherworldly place! PAY ATTENTION!"

Unfortunately, these magic elements serve no purpose except as a sparkly backdrop for the story. What's more, the atmosphere is dampened by what eventually happens with Ida and Midas... and while I won't reveal what happens, it's not exactly the stuff of fairy tales.

And Shaw does an excellent job sketching out lovely, detailed outlines of characters -- Ida's busy active life is shattered by her weird glass-feet disease, and Midas learns to deal with life outside the range of a camera. However, often these characters feel distant and remote, and many of the supporting cast feel more like pretty pale dolls that are being moved around the story. It's hard to connect with them.

"The Girl With Glass Feet" is a bittersweet, exquisitely-written little story filled with glass, snow and pale magic... but somehow, the characters never quite come to life. But Ali Shaw is definitely a talent to watch, once she polished up her storytelling skills.
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