Red Stillettos

Overview

This sensational collection of quality short stories is perfect for the mainstream fiction market. The writing style is deft and stylish but accessible on many levels making it attractive to those buying for book groups and readers who enjoy quality short fiction.

Ruth Joseph lives in Cardiff, Wales where she is part of the strong Jewish community. She has a strong, evovative voice which speaks directly to the reader about guilt, love and food....

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Red Stilettos

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Overview

This sensational collection of quality short stories is perfect for the mainstream fiction market. The writing style is deft and stylish but accessible on many levels making it attractive to those buying for book groups and readers who enjoy quality short fiction.

Ruth Joseph lives in Cardiff, Wales where she is part of the strong Jewish community. She has a strong, evovative voice which speaks directly to the reader about guilt, love and food. Her work has perviously been published by Honno, Parthian and Loki.

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Editorial Reviews

with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. A review from gwales.com

This is an extraordinary collection of short stories written by the Welsh-Jewish author Ruth Joseph. Thoroughly thought-provoking it certainly is, an enjoyable read maybe not, but it is without doubt very readable. The first story, ‘Tapestry’, tells us of a mother’s anguish over the centuries-old Jewish tradition of the circumcision of her newly-born son – graphic, sometimes heart-rending, sometimes heart-warming.

Throughout this collection there are remarkably illuminating passages. Joseph’s use of language is both eloquent and productive. In 'Red Stilettos', the title story, she tells us in the first person of a sous-chef’s ‘trial’ coming new into the kitchen. The chef takes delight in provoking her: ‘Chef tastes my nervousness. Then sniffs the scent like a dog and plans his strategy.’ Further in the story she writes: ‘He crept onto his knees and I watched his disgusting body crawl to the front door, over the beautiful Victorian tiles I had taken so long to restore.’ Such is Joseph’s descriptive prowess that we are there with her, stomach churning.

Joseph’s choice of subject matter is no doubt influenced by the experiences of her youth. Her mother was anorexic and Joseph was her carer; life could not have been easy. In her penultimate story, ‘Patchwork’, she gives a no-holds-barred insight into the depths of despair and depravity that affliction can bring to the sufferer. ‘The pieces of meat in the dog’s bowl lie calling me. I take the bowl and force the greasy pieces of meat into my mouth.’

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, but to put it back on the shelf unread would not only be cowardly. In my opinion, you would have missed reading one of the decade’s finest descriptive narratives.

Norma Penfold

A review from www.gwales.com

This is an extraordinary collection of short stories written by the Welsh-Jewish author Ruth Joseph. Thoroughly thought-provoking it certainly is, an enjoyable read maybe not, but it is without doubt very readable. The first story, ‘Tapestry’, tells us of a mother’s anguish over the centuries-old Jewish tradition of the circumcision of her newly-born son – graphic, sometimes heart-rending, sometimes heart-warming.

Throughout this collection there are remarkably illuminating passages. Joseph’s use of language is both eloquent and productive. In 'Red Stilettos', the title story, she tells us in the first person of a sous-chef’s ‘trial’ coming new into the kitchen. The chef takes delight in provoking her: ‘Chef tastes my nervousness. Then sniffs the scent like a dog and plans his strategy.’ Further in the story she writes: ‘He crept onto his knees and I watched his disgusting body crawl to the front door, over the beautiful Victorian tiles I had taken so long to restore.’ Such is Joseph’s descriptive prowess that we are there with her, stomach churning.

Joseph’s choice of subject matter is no doubt influenced by the experiences of her youth. Her mother was anorexic and Joseph was her carer; life could not have been easy. In her penultimate story, ‘Patchwork’, she gives a no-holds-barred insight into the depths of despair and depravity that affliction can bring to the sufferer. ‘The pieces of meat in the dog’s bowl lie calling me. I take the bowl and force the greasy pieces of meat into my mouth.’

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, but to put it back on the shelf unread would not only be cowardly. In my opinion, you would have missed reading one of the decade’s finest descriptive narratives.

Norma Penfold

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780954489977
  • Publisher: Accent Press Limited
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.04 (w) x 7.93 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Read an Excerpt

I’ve twisted the night in hostile sheets. Is it only four a.m… then five? ‘Don’t worry… He’ll be alright… It’ll all be fine… ’

The insistent cry of a bird shrieks through the curtained silk, stabbing the layers of darkness. Others begin to call. A flood of sound pours into the shadowy bedroom. No peace for me now. I look over at Joseph – one arm flung above his head, his mouth soft in sleep, eyes closed, edged with long black lashes. He’s a good man. He would never let our child suffer… our baby… my son… first son. Eight days old.

I slide out of bed, the pain of stitches slicing my body, and shuffle my feet into sleeping slippers. Then walk stiffly like a King Penguin skirting an icy crevasse. Joseph stirs in the warmth of our bed. ‘You OK?’

‘Yes love… I’m fine… go back to sleep… It’s gonna be a long day.’

I wrap my dressing-gown, hospital new, around my body. I’m grateful for its softness, comforting my shivers, and lean over the Moses basket at the end of the bed. Remember the arguments over who was going to buy it. Grandparents, aunties and uncles, all needing to share in such a pretty temporary arrangement. Within this organza’d wrapping of wicker and blue bows lies the object of my anxiety – a minute arrangement of diminutive limbs and organs contained in an overlarge baby-gro. In the early shadows I see a tiny face, new but already familiar: a part of Joseph, a part of me. Joseph’s nose, my hands outstretched in unaccustomed freedom, like small pink stars with miniscule fingers, each perfect nail a miracle of creation. A thread in the fabric of our combined lives, a wholeness of mutual genes.

 My breasts ache. In under an hour, Nathan will be crying and I will have to sit trying to be patient while he attempts to suck and I’ll think of all the work to be done today – there’s so much to do.

 ‘Give it time,’ said the visiting midwife. Silver watch hanging from efficient bosom. ‘Give the milk time to come through. You’re tired in the beginning and stressed.’

 I shuffle my way downstairs. The clock welcomes with a familiar tick. My mind runs on numerous levels simultaneously, like Joseph’s train set, now folded away in the loft and replaced by multi-packs of nappies, the cot, and a twirling mobile of pink and blue stuffed felt bunnies. The freezer mutters, protecting my anxious preparations – hours of labour waiting to be defrosted. Two hundred cocktail-sized fried gefilte fish balls, the same of salmon rissoles, and falafels, plus two hundred mini pizzas. Two hundred filo vegetable wraps… and chopped herring, hummus…

‘You should have had a caterer,’ said well-meaning friends. ‘How can you possibly make the function and look after the baby and… ’

‘But I want it to be the best… I want to give my baby the best… the best I can do.’

I light a lamp near the bookcase and make a camomile tea, fighting off the urge for coffee – no good for the baby – and set my favourite mug on a table in the corner of the sitting room next to my tapestry. Pulled tight on the fancy stretcher he bought me for my birthday, hangs my own design etched on canvas. I was afraid to commemorate today, before it happened.

‘G-d forbid!’ they’d say. ’You’ll give the baby an eyen horreh… the evil eye… ’

‘But I’m not superstitious!’ I protest.

In the last few days I tried to finish it, feeling the low dull pains of pre-labour contractions, low in the belly and the back, wondering all the time, is this it? Is this what labour feels like? No rush, no rush to hospital. They all say to stay home on the first, until the pain gets too bad. I sat with cramped legs akimbo working frenetically with coloured silks and chunky cottons, to convey a sliver of time. Just a few stitches needed to finish. It’s a kind of family tree with all our past generations surrounded by the flowers I grow in the garden and Joseph’s new fruit seedlings.

As the pains grew I stayed with the threads, making a picture of our lives – the golden colours of bread, of wheat and grasses. The red deep claret of wine and grapes and Kiddush embellished with silver thread for candlesticks and menorah. 

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Table of Contents

Tapestry 1
Devon cream 11
Paying for it 23
Into the cornfield 35
The temptation of silk 43
A piece of sky 51
Stealing baby 61
Grandmother to a heartbeat 69
Clowning around 77
Baggage 85
Red stilettos 93
Eating for two 103
The day I met Elvis 115
Christmas cheer 153
Slipping the skin 157
The dog's blanket 167
Reflections in the sea 175
Mother of a son 179
Shadow of a dragonfly 187
I am a tiger 199
Flesh 209
A Wellington boot life 215
Wasn't that a dainty dish ...? 225
The pink Devore skirt 233
Patchwork 241
Out of the blue 251
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