The Girl with Glass Feet: A Novel

The Girl with Glass Feet: A Novel

by Ali Shaw

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Overview

WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE

Strange things are happening on the remote and snowbound archipelago of St. Hauda's Land. Magical winged creatures flit around the icy bogland, albino animals hide themselves in the snow-glazed woods, and Ida Maclaird is slowly turning into glass. Ida is an outsider in these parts who has only visited the islands once before. Yet during that one fateful visit the glass transformation began to take hold, and now she has returned in search of a cure.

The Girl with Glass Feet is a love story to treasure, "crafted with elegance and swept by passionate magic and the yearning for connection. A rare pleasure" (Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312680459
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 01/04/2011
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ali Shaw graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English literature and has since worked as a bookseller and at Oxford's Bodleian Library. The Girl with Glass Feet is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt

• ONE •

That winter there were reports in the newspaper of an iceberg the shape of a galleon floating in creaking majesty past St. Hauda’s Land’s cliffs, of a snuffling hog leading lost hill walkers out of the crags beneath Lomdendol Tor, of a dumbfounded ornithologist counting five albino crows in a flock of two hundred. But Midas Crook did not read the newspaper; he only looked at the photographs.

That winter Midas had seen photos everywhere. They haunted the woods and lurked at the ends of deserted streets. They were of such multitude that while lining up a shot at one, a second would cross his aim and, tracking that, he’d catch a third in his sights.

One day in mid-December he chased the photos to a part of the woods near Ettinsford. It was a darkening afternoon whose final shafts of light passed between trees, swung across the earth like searchlights. He left the path to follow such a beam. Twigs crunched beneath his shoes. A bleating bird skipped away over leaves. Branches swayed and clacked against each other overhead, snipping through the roving beam. He kept up his close pursuit, treading through its trail of shadows.

His father had once told him a legend: lone travelers on overgrown paths would glimpse a humanoid glow that ghosted between trees or swam in a still lake. And something, some impulse from the guts, would make the traveler lurch off the path in pursuit, into the mazy trees or deep water. When they pinned it down it would take shape. Sometimes it would form a flower of phosphorescent petals. Sometimes it drew a bird of sparks whose tail feathers fizzed embers. Sometimes it became like a person and they’d think they saw, under a nimbus like a veil, the features of a loved one long lost. Always the light grew steadily brighter until—in a fl ash—they’d be blinded. Midas’s father hadn’t needed to elaborate on what happened to them after that. Lost and alone in the cold of the woods.

It was nonsense, of course, like everything his father had said. But light was magic, making the dull earth vivid. A shaft of it hung against a tree trunk, bleaching the cracked bark yellow. Enticed, Midas crept towards it and captured it on camera before it sank back into the loam. A quick glance at his display screen promised a fine picture, but he was greedy for more. Another shaft lit briars and holly ahead. It made the berries sharply red, the leaves poisonously green. He shot it, and harried another that drifted ahead through the undergrowth. It gathered pace while Midas tripped on roots and snagged his ankles on strands of thorns. He chased it all the way to the fringe of the wood, and followed it into the open, where the scrubland sloped down and away from him towards a river. Crows wheeled in a sky of oily rags. Hidden water gurgled nearby, welling into a dark pool at the bottom of the slope. Above the pool, the ray of light dangled like a golden ribbon. He charged down the slope to catch it, feet skidding on mushy soil and sharp air driving into his lungs as he stumbled the last distance down to the banks. A sheet of lacy ice covered the water and prevented reflections, so all he could see in the pool was darkness. The ray had vanished. The clouds had coalesced too fast. He was panting, hanging his head and resting with hands on knees. His breath hung in the air.

"Are you okay?"

He spun around and felt his foot skid on a clot of soil. He fell forward and stumbled up again with filthy hands and cold muddy patches on his knees. A girl sat neatly on a fl at rock. Somehow he’d not seen her. She looked like she’d stepped through the screen of a 1950s movie. Her skin and blond hair were such pale shades they looked monochrome. Her long coat was tied at the waist by a fabric belt. She was probably a few years younger than him, in her early twenties, wearing a white hat with matching gloves.

"Sorry," she said, "if I surprised you."

Her irises were titanium gray, her most striking feature. Her lips were an afterthought and her cheekbones flat. But her eyes . . . He realized he was staring into them and quickly looked away.

He turned to the pond in hope of the light. On the other side of the water was a field marked out by a stringy barbed- wire fence. A shaggy gray ram stood there, horns like ammonites, staring into space. Past that the woods began again, with no sign of a farmhouse attached to the ram’s field. Nor was there any sign of the light.

"Are you sure you’re okay? Have you lost something?"

"Light."

He turned back to her, wondering if she might have seen it. It was on the rock beside her, beamed through a hole in the clouds.

"Shh!" He spent half a second aiming, then took the shot.

"What are you doing?"

He scrutinized the image on the camera’s screen. A fine photo, all told. The girl’s half of the stone steeped in a tree’s forked shadow, the other half turned to a hunk of glowing amber. But wait . . . On closer examination he had made a mess of the composition, cropping the ends of her boots. He bent closer to the screen. No wonder he had made the mistake, for the girl’s feet sat neatly together in a pair of large boots many sizes too big for her. They were covered in laces and buckles like straightjackets. A walking stick lay across her lap.

"I’m still here, you know."

He looked up, startled.

"And I asked you what you were doing."

"What?"

"Are you a photographer?"

"Yes."

"You’re a professional?"

"No."

"Amateur?"

He frowned.

"You’re an unemployed photographer?"

He waved his hands in vague directions. This complicated question often worried him. What other people could not realize was that photography wasn’t a job, a hobby or an obsession, it was simply as fundamental to his interpretation of the world as the effect of light diving in his retinas.

"I cope," he mumbled, "with photography."

She raised an eyebrow. "It’s rude to photograph people without their consent. Not everyone enjoys the experience."

The ram grunted in its field.

She carried on. "Anyway, may I see it? The photograph you took of me."

Midas timidly held out the camera, tilting it slightly towards her.

"Actually," he explained, "um, it’s not a photo of you. If it were I’d have framed it differently. I wouldn’t have cropped the tip of your, erm, boot. And I’d have asked permission."

"Then what’s it a photograph of?"

He shrugged. "You could say it was the light."

"Can I take a closer look?"

Before he’d had a chance to figure out how to word a sentence to say no, not really, not quite, he wasn’t that comfortable with other people handling his camera, she reached up and took it. The carry strap, still slung around his neck, forced him to step unbearably close to her. He winced and waited, leaning backwards uncomfortably, to keep as much of himself as far as he could from her. His eyes drifted back to her boots.

They weren’t just big. They were enormous on a girl so thin. They reached almost up to her knees.

"God, I look awful. So shadowy." She sighed and let the camera go. Midas straightened up and took a relieved step backwards, still staring at her boots.

"They were my dad’s. He was a policeman. They’re made for plodding."

"Oh. Ah . . ."

"Here." She opened her handbag and took out her wallet, finding inside a dog-eared piece of photograph showing her in denim shorts, yellow T-shirt and sunglasses. She stood on a beach Midas recognized.

"That’s Shalhem Bay," he said, "near Gurmton."

"Last summer. The last time I came to St. Hauda’s Land."

She offered him the photo to take a closer look. In it, her skin was tanned and her hair a roasted blond. She wore a pair of flip-flops on small, untoward feet.

A snort behind him made Midas jump. The ram had made a steamy halo for his horned head.

"You’re quite a jumpy guy. Are you sure you’re all right? What’s your name?"

"Midas."

"That’s unusual."

He shrugged.

"Not so unusual if it’s your own name, I suppose. Mine’s Ida."

"Hello, Ida."

She smiled, showing slightly yellowed teeth. He didn’t know why that should surprise him. Perhaps because the rest of her was so gray.

"Ida," he said.

"Yes." She gestured to the speckled surface of the rock. "Do you want to sit down?"

He sat a few feet away from her.

"Is it just me," she asked, "or is this an ugly winter?"

The clouds were now as thick and drab as concrete. The ram rubbed a hind leg against the fence, tearing his gray wool on the barbed wire.

"I don’t know," Midas said.

"There’ve been so few of those crisp days when the sky’s that brilliant blue. Outdoor days I like. And the dead leaves aren’t coppery, they’re gray."

He examined the mush of leaves at their feet. She was right. "Pleasing," he said.

She laughed. She had a watery cackle he wasn’t sure he enjoyed.

"But you," he said, "are wearing gray." And she looked good. He’d like to photograph her among monochrome pines. She’d wear a black dress and white makeup. He’d use color film and capture the muted flush in her cheeks.

"I used to dress in bright colors," she said, "saffrons and scarlets. Jesus, I used to have a tan."

He screwed up his face.

"Well, you were always bound to enjoy black-and-white winters. You’re a photographer." She reached over and shoved him playfully in a way that stunned him and would have made him shriek if he weren’t so surprised. "Like the wolf man."

"Um . . ."

"Seeing in black and white like a dog. As for me, I like colorful winters. I really want them to return. They were never this dreary before."

She kept her feet still as she sat, not shuffling them about and poking at the ground as he had the habit of doing.

"So what do you do? If you’re not a professional photographer?"

He remembered from nowhere what his father had said about never talking to strangers. He cleared his throat. "I work for my friend. At a florist’s. It’s called Catherine’s."

"Sounds fun."

"I get paper cuts. From the bouquet paper."

"A florist must be a nightmare for a black-and-white photographer."

The ram hoofed at slushy dirt.

Midas gulped. These had been more words than he had spoken in some weeks. His tongue was getting dry. "What about you?"

"Me? I suppose you could say I’m unemployable."

"Um . . . Are you ill?"

She shrugged. A fleck of rain hit the rock. She smoothed her hat further onto her head. Another raindrop fell on the leather of one boot, making a reflective spot above the toes.

She sighed. "I don’t know."

More rain fell icy on their cheeks and foreheads.

Ida looked up at the sky. "I’d best head back." She picked up her walking stick and carefully pushed herself to her feet.

Midas looked back up the slope he’d charged down. "Where’s . . . back?"

She gestured with her walking stick. Away down a winding riverbank path. "A little cottage that belongs to a friend."

"Ah. I suppose I’d best be going, too."

"Nice to meet you."

"And you. Get . . . Get well soon."

She waved gingerly, then turned around and moved away along the path. She walked at a snail’s pace, cautiously placing her stick before each step, like she was rediscovering walking after a bedridden spell. Midas felt a tug inside him as she left. He wanted to take a picture, photograph her this time, not the light. He hesitated, then shot her from behind, her shuffling figure backdropped by the water and the ram’s gray field.

• TWO •

She’d developed a particular way of walking to accommodate her condition. Step, pause, step instead of step, step, step. You needed that moment’s pause to make sure you’d set your foot straight. Like the opening gambits of a dance. Her boots were thick and padded, but one accidental fall or careless stumble could do irreparable damage that would finish her off for good, she supposed. That would be that.

And what was it like, walking on bone and muscle, on heels and soles? She couldn’t remember. Now walking felt like levitation, always an inch off the ground.

The river kept quiet, here pattering down a short cascade, there brushing over a weed-covered rock that looked like a head of green hair. Ida kept hobbling, occasional raindrops dissolving into her coat and making the wool of her hat wet. That was another problem with this bloody stupid way of getting about: you couldn’t move fast enough to keep warm. She pulled her scarf over her chin and ice-cold nose.

Thickets of holly dipped their branches in the river. A moth landed on a cluster of bright berries. She stopped walking as it fanned its wings. They were furred brown and speckled with lush greens.

"Hi," she said to the moth.

It flew away.

She walked on.

She wanted the moth back. Sometimes when she closed her eyes she saw more color than she could in a whole day on St. Hauda’s Land with them open.

She’d always liked to be in places where tightly packed hips, shoulders and backsides danced against yours, a dazzle of colors whirling on dresses and shirts. She’d held off sleep using the sheer pleasure of company, be it huddled in a freezing tent wearing a thick jumper or trading stories over card games in friends’ flats until morning came. There was none of that to be had on these islands.

She had with her the tatty St. Hauda’s Land guidebook she had bought on her trip to the archipelago in the summer. When she had opened it that winter, for the first time since that trip, grains of white sand fell from its spine.

She’d had more enthusiasm for the place in summertime. She had read, with pity for the islanders, about the lurching industrial fishing boats that trawled from the mainland to intrude in the archipelago’s waters, scooping whole pods of speared whales from the water and turning them to blubber and red slop on their slaughterhouse decks. She had read of local whalers who sailed farther and farther out to sea in little boats their fathers and grandfathers had fished in. Some had not returned, either when storms blew up or generations-old vessels failed them. She read how, when they returned with dismal catches, the market was already saturated by the meat from the mainland. Whaling families began to move away, taking their youngsters with them. Ida’s guidebook tried to draw a line under this, but sounded delirious instead. Tourists would never be attracted, as the authors hoped, by the drab architecture of Glamsgallow’s seafront. Nor by the plain rock walls of Ettinsford’s church. Nor by the fishery guildhall at Gurmton, whose painted ceiling of seamen and sea creatures, all depicted with underwhelming skill in the muted colors of the ocean, was compared hopelessly optimistically to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

It was wrong to count on the landscape, although it could be impressive at times. Other island destinations had more dramatic coastlines than St. Hauda’s Land, which showcased more than anything the insidious sea. Ida had wondered when the guidebook’s map was sketched, for entire beaches shown on the map were these days buried under the weight of water. An impressive natural rock tower called Grem Forst (locally known as the Giant’s Lamphouse) was described in flowery prose as a star attraction. The lumberjack sea had been at work, cutting away at the rock with its adze of waves. Unwitnessed one evening, the Lamphouse toppled. It broke into a string of boulders peeking meek faces out of the tide.

Inland, the archipelago had only foul-smelling bogs and haggard woodland to attract holidaymakers. Ida doubted the islands could survive the peddling of this kind of tourism. If anything, the guidebook should trumpet the one thing it was careful to avoid.

Loneliness. You couldn’t buy company on St. Hauda’s Land.

He’d been an odd one, that boy with the camera. Such a distinctive physique: pale skin so taut on his skeleton, holding himself with a shy hunch, not ugly as such but certainly not handsome, with a demeanor eager to cause no trouble, to attract no attention.

Made sense. She reckoned photographers wanted you to behave as normal, as if they and their cameras weren’t there.

She liked him.

She hesitated (taking her next careful step along the river path). There were more pressing things than one skewed island man. Like finding Henry Fuwa, her first skewed island man.

Henry Fuwa. The kind of man who was either pitied or scoffed at. The kind of person who might be seen on a bus paired with the only empty seat, while passengers chose to stand in the aisle. A man she had come back all this way— braved the heaving sigh of the ferry deck and the retreat of color—to pin down. Out of everyone she’d met since what was happening started happening to her, only Henry had offered any clue about the strange transformation happening beneath her boots and many- layered socks. She had not even known it was a clue when he offered it, because back on that summer trip she had still been able to wriggle her toes and pick the sand out from between them.

Wind stirred the branches of the firs overhead. The memory of the clue he had given her was a dripping tap in the dead of night. The moment you blocked out the dripping, you realized you’d done so, and that made you listen again.

He had said it in the Barnacle, that ugly little pub in Gurmton, six months ago when the earth was baked yellow and the sea aquamarine.

"Would you believe," he had said (and back then she had not), "there are glass bodies here, hidden in the bog water?"

Night mustered in the woods. Shadows lengthened across the path and Ida could barely see where track ended and root began. The half moon looked like it was dissolving in the clouds. A bird called out. Leaves rustled among worm-shapes of trunks. Something shook the branches.

She hobbled onward in the dark, eager to be inside, to root out colors in the safety of the cottage. Tomorrow she would look again for Henry Fuwa. But how did you find a recluse in a wilderness of recluses?

Excerpted from The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw.

Copyright © 2009 by Ali Shaw.

Published in 2010 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Reading Group Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The Girl with Glass Feet are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Girl with Glass Feet.

1. Light is a motif that permeates the novel. What is the significance of light in the story? What does light mean to Midas? Why is it meaningful that the jellyfish of St. Hauda's Land emit light when they die?

2. Why is Midas drawn to photography? How does his obsession color the way he looks at the world and affect his decisions? Why does Midas think that negatives are the "real photographs"?

3. Why does Ida choose men with whom she must be endlessly patient and cannot have satisfying relationships? Why does she give Midas so many chances?

4. What role does color—or lack thereof—play in the novel?

5. Why does Ida make Midas promise not to tell anyone about her feet? Why is she so intent on keeping her condition a secret?

6. Why does Henry Fuwa say that Ida's glass transformation is not a disease, but simply a part of her (109)? Is there another way for us to understand the condition besides thinking of it as a terminal illness?

7. What similarities and differences exist between Henry Fuwa and Carl Maulson?

8. The major female characters—Ida, Evaline, Freya, Catherine—meet untimely and tragic deaths and in some cases make sacrifices of themselves. What does the consistent theme of female sacrifice imply about women's roles in relationships?

9. Hector Stallows expresses to Midas his amazement of how "a simple alignment of eyes can cause so much devastation" (202), in reference to the mysterious creature that turns everything white with its eyes. What is the importance of looking and seeing throughout the novel? Is the sense of sight ultimately more detrimental than good in the characters' lives?

10. Inevitability and fate are presented as the reason for many tragic events in the novel, such as Ida's dog's demise. Ida herself seems convinced very early on in the course of her illness that there would be no cure. Did you believe a cure would present itself? How long did you allow yourself to hope?

11. Many characters are burdened and blinded by their guilt and regret, unable to move forward from painful events of the past. Which characters do you feel the most sympathy for? Which characters do you feel could have made different decisions to avoid their circumstances?

12. Would Midas have been able to forgive and change his opinion of his father if he had allowed himself to read his father's book? Is his father's condition a complete excuse for his long-term behavior to his wife and son?

13. Does Midas intend to recover Ida's body after he becomes accomplished as a diver? Should he?

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The Girl with Glass Feet 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Trebble More than 1 year ago
The description made me think that it was some sort of magical voyage between two people finding a way to each other with Ida's unusual condition as the catalyst. Instead it is a very strange and dark love story between Ida and Midas and the people in their lives. Usually these types of book I find hard to get lost within the pages. That was not the case in this story. It was captivating from the first chapter. In the story, many of the characters surrounding the couple who often also have a chapter with their own POV, are looking for some sort of redemption for a wrong turn they took in their lives. It was not that way with Ida and Midas. They were finding a way to wake themselves up to the world and those close around them. To have the courage to make their own mistakes. Although the characters were slow to wake up to taking chances with each other, it was still interesting to see how both characters change toward one another. It was frustrating especially because time was not on their side with Ida's condition getting worse. I did see Ida's condition as a metaphor for a terminal illness. If you consider it, what better metaphor than glass? It is something that alters her body, makes it non-functional and when people see the "glass" it is as if they look right through you. I did have a hard time deciding if I would give this book 3 1/2 stars or if I would give it a full 4 stars. My main objection is my own and had nothing to do with the writing itself. And by throwing out my personal preference, I'd have to say it was too well written for me to take it down slightly. Therefore, I give it 4 stars and recommend this book for people who want a dark, strange and lyrical type of romance story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Magical Realism at it's best. Wonderful. If you like Alice Hoffman, you'll like this.
BonnieY More than 1 year ago
There is a street musician in New York City, who plays a hand saw with a violin bow. That music, to me, is the audio equivalent of this book: haunting and eerie. There's a sense of otherworldliness, and yet a strange sort of beauty exists as well. Not the sort of book I immediately reach for, but an enjoyable read once I settled in.
Blodeuedd More than 1 year ago
I honestly do not know where to start. How do I explain a book like this, how can I get you all to see the magic in it? It is a strange tale about a girl, Ida who returns to St Hauda's Land in search for answers. Her feet are turning into glass, yes glass. She does not know why but she remembers a man who had mentioned glass bodies in the bog. Could he hold the answer? Here she meets Midas, a strange young man who loves to take photos, and they fall in love, slowly, awkward, but in love. Perhaps you now see the strangeness in this book. Her body is slowly being transformed into glass, and when it finishes, well no one can live in a body of glass. These islands are a strange place. There is talk about a strange animal with white eyes, and this whole place seems to ooze strangeness. Like it is some kind of distant land far far away where these strange things can still exist, hidden away from the rest of the world. And the people here have grown used to them. Used to finding strange things like moth-winged cows. It was a great story, hauntingly beautiful and sad. I felt like I was there, on this damp, cold island. The language took hold of this feeling and made me stay. It is not a happy story, there is coldness creeping in the edges of this book and there are a lot of unhappy people in it. Still it felt magical. The story is not just a story, it jumps in time. We get to see Midas' dad, who wasn't a nice man, and who shaped who Midas is now. We also get to see Ida's past, and she hadn't a nice dad either. Their mothers seemed frail. And then there is the longing, both had mothers who others longed for. Lost passions, with more sad flashbacks. To understand the now, you have to understand the past. I shall not forget the lovestory. Midas meets Ida, they see something in each other. The slowly move towards each other, and they seem so perfect for each other. But the clock is ticking, not only to find a cure, but for them to finally do something. I liked Ida, I would not have been as brave as she was, to see my feet turn to glass would surely have driven me insane. And I had to love Midas, he was strange, but so lovable. I could picture him before me. This is Shaw's first novel, and if he continues in this style then I am sure we will hear much more about him. If I sum it up, it is like a strange fairytale, the girl with glass feet, and the awkward prince she meets.
Maggie_Rum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I started this book thinking it would be science fiction; while it certainly had some fantastical portions to it, it was far from sci-fi. Magical realism, with a close romance spun into it, Girl with the Glass Feet has become a favorite of mine, one I always recommend to those coming into my bookstore workplace. Shaw writes so that you can feel the chill of this island, and you begin feeling your toes freeze, much like Ida. Many readers in a romance are looking for a happy reading, so I shall give this warning; do not read in hopes of heart-warming. Beautiful, yes, but with depressed characters, make sure you know what style of book you want before you delve into this. 5/5
justabookreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ida Maclaird went to St. Hauda's Land looking for answers to a strange affliction --- her feet are turning to glass. While exploring the island, she meets Midas Crook. He's introverted, skittish, and mostly avoids people preferring to see the world through the lens of his camera. For Midas, it's easier to photograph life than experience it.Ida, outgoing and friendly to Midas's lonely and shy state, stops by the flower shop where he works and asks him to coffee. She confesses that she is looking for a man named Henry Fuwa. Midas knows him but because of his own emotional and personal history with Henry, tells her nothing. Midas wants to help, but can't bring himself to say the words or to actually do anything. It is Ida who pushes the relationship forward and once again invites Midas to spend time with her. When Ida invites Midas to the cottage she is staying at, he gets a look at her feet which entrance him enough to photograph them while Ida sleeps. Ida is hurt by his actions but somehow still wants him around for which Midas is grateful, although he's unable to express it.Midas becomes so captivated with Ida and her feet that he goes to see Henry Fuwa without telling her. Henry tells him what he doesn't want to hear --- there is no cure and the glass will eventually overtake her whole body. Midas doesn't tell Ida about this visit or what he has learned but is determined to help her. Somehow Ida finds herself falling in love with Midas but she can't help but wonder if it's the affliction or Midas that is actually causing the feelings she's having. While she is hoping for a cure, she can see the glass spreading and is all too aware of the fact that she hasn't much time left.Over the course of Ida looking for a cure, you're introduced to a strange cast of island residents all disturbed and suffering some ailment of their own. It's a sad story with death hanging over every page. It's almost as if every one of the island residents is grieving in their own way, sadly looking for answers and emotions long passed or forgotten. They all seem to crave some light and happiness on a damp, foggy island. While the story is full of failures, romantic and otherwise, Ida and Midas do find each other and while the romance is far from romantic, it forces both Ida and Midas to focus on the present and enjoy what's in front of them.This a debut novel by Shaw and it's a good show. While I thought some parts were slightly confusing and a few extra words of explanation could have helped in places, it's a story I couldn't put down in the end. While I don't think each story needs a happy ending, I was slightly surprised and pleased by how this one turned out.
dksthomson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Other than a beautiful cover, this book was a waste of time and money, for me. Paragraphs and paragraphs of describing what her body looked like as it turned to glass...throughout the entire book. And, unless I missed something, there is never an explanation as to how this may have happened. Or, why she never sought medical attention?Lots of talk about dragonfly-sized cows and bulls with wings that fly about, but never an explanation of why or their origin. All the characters were wimpy. Horrible ending.I see it has been tagged magical realism, but I think not. It's more like the Twilight Zone. It had potential, but got lost in the author's doom and gloom. I do remember thinking that maybe the author has lost somebody to cancer and this was his cathartic release, but it's just too weird for even a good cry if that's what you're looking for.
ajcreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book awhile back as part to the early review program on Library Thing. The title and concept drew me quickly to this book. I was somewhat disappointed that the strory and characters lacked depth, I felt that there was a part of the story that was not included in my book. What I really would like to see is a sequel that will help to answer all the questions that this reader is left with . Would recommend this to those who enjoy beautiful language.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I actually saw this book the first time through the Amazon Vine program; I ended up getting it from the library instead, but the cover and book description intrigued me. I liked some parts of the book and disliked others; overall it ended up being an okay read. It was more a tale of people making bad decisions about love than a fantasy though; you should know that before you pick it up.Most of the tale centers around a young girl Ida and a photographer Midas. Midas is very introverted and grew up on the island; while Ida is very monochromatic and extroverted, although at one time she was vibrant. Ida has a disease that she seems to have picked up when she visited the island, she is slowly turning to glass from the feet up. Midas is at first fascinated by the image her glass feet portray and then fascinated by Ida herself. Ida is dealing with the uncertainty of her illness, while Midas is dealing with his fright of people. The lives of numerous people weave in and out of their story. The book is full of people who regret choices they have made in their lives and full of people who have lost the loves of their life.As you might guess from the description this is not a heartwarming book or a happy book. The majority of characters are incredibly depressed; the whole story is a bit monochromatic as all the characters are bleached of any positive emotion. Ida, despite her horrible affliction, is the greatest point of light in the whole novel. While the description of the book makes it seem like a fantasy, it really is not that at all. The book deals more with people's past decisions and how those decisions affected their families; it also deals with how a life-threatening illness affects the people around you. There are mysterious happenings on the island but they are never explored, only briefly discussed, and are just accepted as part of the island. The writing style is both good and bad. At times the descriptions are so beautiful as to be inspiring, at others the plot wanders a bit too much. Shaw bounces between present and past without much warning. The storyline is told from a number of characters' viewpoints; which can get a bit confusing at times. When I got to the end of the book, I also thought that some of the characters could have been left out of the story without much impact...then we could have spent more time with Midas and Ida.The most beautiful parts of the book were when Henry is exploring the insects of the regions, followed by the parts with Midas and Ida. This book is not really a fantasy and definitely not something to read to lift your mood. The mood of the book feels like winter; cold, unforgiving, and hopefully giving way to something better. To be honest the story left me feeling chilled.Overall, there is some excellent imagery in the book and some creative ideas. I thought the execution left something to be desired; the plot meanders a lot and the book dealt more with bitter people than fantasy. In general an okay read; but not something to brighten your day. It didn't make me eager to read any more of Shaw's work.
tcscrib on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you've ever seen an artisan glass blower at work, you've experienced some of what reading THE GIRL WITH THE GLASS FEET is like. Ali Shaw is a master craftsman, creating a world that is magically believable. Though he leaves the reader wanting
ursula on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This wasn't at all what I expected from the beginning. I had a hard time getting into it at the beginning - I think it just takes a little time to adjust to the style of magic realism of the story.The writing is very beautiful, and most of the characters well-imagined. I was left wishing for more resolution of a lot of the set-up, though.
ladycato on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is an ARC received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.Ida Mclaird has returned to the isle St. Hauda's Land, the place she visited on holiday only months before. However, this visit is not a vacation. Her feet are turning to glass, and a mumbled sentence from an eccentric islander leads her to believe she may not be the only one to suffer this disorder. As she searches for a cure, she encounters Midas Crook. Midas is a photographer and a loner, emotionally stunted by the torturous relationship of his parents and his father's suicide. As the glass spreads upward, Ida doesn't give up on herself - or on Midas - as they stumble across a landscape where small moth-winged bulls flitter about and jelly fish glow in the bay by night.This is a beautiful, eloquent novel of magical realism. St. Hauda's Land is as real a character as the people who inhabit it, maybe more so. Some of Shaw's gorgeous descriptions made me gasp out loud. The theme of the novel is fairly straightforward: Ida, the girl with glass feet has lived vibrantly, and won't go down without a fight, while other characters such as Midas live as though they have glass feet and don't really live at all. This book really grew on me as I read, and I think it will linger with me for some time.
Cats57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Girl with Glass Feet - by Ali ShawRight off the top I'm going to tell you that I am NOT a professional reviewer. I'm just an average person that adores books of all kinds. Some of my favorites are in the speculative fiction category and this is why I chose this novel to review.This is a book that has one foot in the fantasy genre and one foot in romance, and doesn¿t know which way to jump. This is quite an original story with a very unusual setting. St. Hauda¿s, a series of islets and islands that seem very remote and isolated from the rest of the modern, but really isn¿t. Fantastical things can and do happen in this place. I¿m not sure what the author wants us to think of St. Hauda¿s, is it a world of pure fantasy so that we can drop our pre-conceived expectations? Is it a land that is as modern as most outlying areas that are slightly isolated from the rest of the world, sort of backwards but with feet firmly entrenched in the 21 century? The world is very confusing and frustrating.As a matter of fact this whole novel was extremely frustrating. The characters are self-centered, selfish and some are down-right mean. The story is disjointed and hard to follow. The ¿love story¿ between Midas and Ida the protagonists, is unrealistic and unbelievable. There seems to be nothing to make you really believe that they care for each other. Nor was there anything in this book that actually made me care about it at all.This book left me feeling depressed and angry, confused and cheated. If you really feel the urge to read this since it is getting so many good reviews, I urge you to wait until the paperback comes out to save a bit of cash or get it from the library.I believe that this is a book that you will either love or hate. Good luck.
RBeffa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This has been described as a modern fable or fairytale for adults, but it is much more than that. There are certainly elements of fantasy in this novel, and perhaps what is called magical realism, but it is more than anything a sort of love story, well several love stories - most failures, and a bunch of damaged individuals who get pushed a little. Throughout the book there is vivid imagery of this imagined place and at times I found myself pausing and going 'wow". There are richly drawn characters here and it is one of the best novels I have read in recent times. A very satisfying end to the story as well.
bookwormygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ida MacLaird visited St. Hauda's island a year ago. There she met a man named Henry Fuwa who spoke of creatures such as the moth-winged cattle and a beast whose glance could turn anything to pure white. When the tips of her toes begin to turn to glass, she can think of no other person that can help her other than Henry and she is quite certain that whatever her mysterious affliction is, she obtained it while at St. Hauda's.Midas Crook is somewhat of a loner. He hides behind his camera and only sees the world through its potential for photographic composition. He happens to run across Ida one day while in the woods and can't seem to stop the impulse to want to photograph her, to know her, to find out what is causing her such unhappiness. He tries to fight his feelings for her - but her sad, defiant spirit calls to him and he finds himself waging a war with time. For Midas has to put his past behind him, and that includes the memories of his cruel father, his tortured mother and his insecurities and embrace the opportunity he has found in Ida... the chance at true love. But love won't be enough if they can't find a way to stave off the spread of the glass.Let me start by saying that I picked this book up because I fell in love with its stunning cover. I never even got around to reading its synopsis, I just saw it, loved it and read it. For some reason, I assumed it would be a YA title - don't know why I was under that assumption, so needless to say, I was surprised to find an adult fairytale-type story within the pages of The Girl with Glass Feet.Although you would think this is Ida's story, it really is more about Midas. As they struggle to find a cure for the rapidly spreading ice, the relationship between them grows into something unexpected. It is through Ida's perseverance that she is able to break through Midas' memories, inhibitions and introverted nature and bring him fully into the present, to be alive... with her, before it's too late.It did take me a couple of chapters to actually get into the storyline. But from the first page, I found myself taken in by the whimsical (even mythical) descriptions we get of St. Hauda's. It didn't take very long before I found myself completely immersed and needing to read more about the complicated characters that are Midas and Ida.Midas made me feel anxious and exasperated - I wanted to grab him and just shake him and yell at him to snap out of it before love simply slipped away. He had the pressure of his father's suicide and I know he preferred to see life through his camera, but he was just letting life pass him by. Then there was Ida - she was spunky, well-traveled, spontaneous, but slowly turning to glass. I loved how she was able to overlook Midas' flaws, and see the goodness in him.This was a very unusual love story and one that I found even more peculiar since the fact that she was turning to glass never really surprised anyone. You'd think if I showed you my glass feet you would somehow panic or freak out in some way... but no, these characters just saw it for what it was... she's turning into glass, so let's find a cure. I found that rather odd, but then again, so were the moth-winged cattle and the technicolor jellyfish. I think the author does a good job of bringing all the fantastical elements in the novel together with the realism and genuine relationships scattered throughout.It definitely had a lot of potential but it left me feeling as if some things were left unanswered. I also really wished some of the more magical elements were brought more into perspective. Overall I found this to be a unique and interesting read - but not one I would recommend to everyone.
esbarth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ali Shaw's The Girl With Glass Feet presents a fantastic modern-day fairy tale that is truly as straight-forward as its title: Ida Maclaird's feet are turning into glass. It is a malady that struck her during a visit to the St. Hauda's Land archipelago, a place to which she returns in an attempt to uncover both the reason for her transformation and (she hopes) some cure. As the central crisis in the book, Ida's illness (though, as we're counseled, it is not really an illness) provides a mechanism for examining failures of bravery and the desperation of fear. There are few characters in the book to whom we can look up. They all seem to be trapped in a depressed gloom mirrored by the misty, cold, monochrome environment of the islands. And the intertwining stories give us no respite, no hope for recovery. Every character we encounter seems trapped in his own lonely gulag. At the same time, there are some bright moments: Henry Fuwa's interactions with the moth-winged bulls and Midas Crook's experience of the world through his camera lens present psychologically realistic portraits of people who seem in so many ways suffocated coming up for air. More than anything, Midas's burgeoning relationship with Ida illustrates the power of a little positive human interaction.It's enough to draw Midas out of a carefully constructed loneliness. One wonders, however, whether it is enough to mitigate the contamination of the past - while the lives of the characters become increasingly intertwined, their actions are increasingly muddled by private and often long-ended dramas. The fabulist elements in the book are so thoroughly integrated into the narration as to seem, often, like the most natural mystery imaginable; the clean frankness of Shaw's writing engulfs his readers in the dreamlike lamentations rising from every corner of St. Hauda's Land.
tangledthread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book started out interesting as the two main characters were introduced. But the author spent so much of his writing creating the ambiance of his created world, that he forgot to consistently develop the characters. Sometimes everything is inexplicably white, then odd color descriptions are introduced. And while Midas is introduced as a character who can only experience the world from behind a camera lens, that attribute seems to get dropped then picked up again through the story. Similarly, Ida's transformation into glass is developed in a rather uneven fashion.The premise of the story is good, and the potential for understanding it as an allegorical tale is there. But the author leaves so much unresolved that it's hard to pin meaning to the allegory. Sort of leaves one feeling trapped behind the glass.
Suzanne520 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just love the concept of this book! A girl that turns into glass? Amazing! I can hardly wait to read this one!********************************************************************************************************I just finished this book today, and I have a lot to say about it!First of all, the great things:Ali Shaw writes amazing and beautiful descriptions. When it comes to describing the world he is writing about, he doesn't miss a speck on a leaf. As a reader, you can breathe in the air he is writing about, see every sight, and smell every smell. I loved his use of metaphors through out the story. There were such amazing allegories through out the entire book as well. Beautiful use of the English language such as his description of "the lumberjack sea" and boots that "weep" mud had me very impressed from the beginning. Unfortunately, for me, although Ali Shaw is clearly a great writer, I didn't feel like he was a great "story teller." The story itself seemed to lack some of the attention to detail that he gave to his descriptions. He slowly unraveled all of these details throughout the story, writing mysteriously, and making me, as a reader, want to carefully collect each thread so I could have a beautiful thing at the end. However, after collecting all of my threads, I felt a little as though part of the picture was missing. It was as though he unraveled something that could have been beautiful, but it just didn't come together properly. I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I will just say that although some character's stories wrapped up neatly, others were left frayed, and gave me the impression that maybe they shouldn't have been a part of the story to begin with. As for the characters themselves, Ali Shaw's descriptive nature left me feeling almost as though I knew them. Ida's transformation (from hope to acceptance) was amazing to witness. As was Midas's transformation from guarded to welcoming. All in all, I really did enjoy this book. I believe I will read future books by Ali Shaw, if for nothing other than his almost poetic writing style. I would definitely recommend this as a good read, just be prepared to enjoy the journey more than the destination!By the way, I won this book in a goodreads giveaway, so thank you so much goodreads for introducing me to this new talented writer!
barpurple on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With a title like that I just had to try this one. The title suggests an almost fairy tale and that is what Ali Shaw delivers.The elements of mystical transformation are woven in with the more everyday, yet equally amazing, emotional development of the characters. I loved this book and can't wait to read more by Ali Shaw.
deepikasd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Midas Crook is roaming through the woods. As he travels through the tress chasing after light, trying to capture it with his camera, he finds a girl, out of place in the woods. And so begins a friendship that will draw the two to each other. Both Midas and Ida both have baggage, either physical or emotional. Both characters need each other for support and realize love is a lot deeper than it appears to be.Ida, through her condition (she has glass feet), teaches Midas to live everyday to its fullest. Midas teaches Ida to trust. The story is beautifully written and captivating.It also features love stories. Stories that will redefine your version of love. Whether it is a possessive love, or a passionate one, or a love that wants to love but can't, love is found in almost all the characters' lives.Another feature of this book is the magical quality found in nature. Winged creatures that resemble cattle, a creature whose stare can turn everything white, and the mysterious "statues" of glass humanoids found deep within the bogs. The mystical qualities added to the fact that St. Hauda's Land is almost like a land of its own, force the reader into a magical place where almost anything can happen.I recommend this book to all who love reading. Ali Shaw writes beautifully and will entangle you in his web of words and story. The only reason I gave this book a half star is because I felt that Shaw should have let Midas find out the whole truth of his father. After the only connection to the truth is destroyed, I can honestly say that I wished somehow I could go and find Midas to tell him the truth so that he could truly understand his father. After reading this book, I will gladly wait to read Shaw's newest book, even if it might have a sad ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The only reason I did not give it five stars is because the plot meandered a bit here and there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Imaginstive
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
for one i felt like all of this thoughts clashed...ideas that made no sense to the story like the moth wing bulls and the animal that turned objects to white and henry?? I thought they would of tied in somewhere or maybe help the cure? These parts shouldnt of been in the book..most writters have a flow to their stories and i didnt see a good.comsistant until the middle of the book. The ending was the worst, of course he had to give up your hopes for the poor girl..it was an all around stupid book..im glad i only purchased mine for a dollar..sorry but what a joke Good things to say well he had and intresting way of describing things, like i said the middle was good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago