Wednesday 1 August 2018

Guest Review: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

Masha's life has stopped. Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, her life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds solace in the silent company of the souls of her local Victorian cemetery and at the town's lido, where she seeks refuge underwater - safe from the noise and the pain.
But a chance encounter with two extraordinary women - the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl-turned-magician's wife-turned-seventy-something-roller-disco-fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice - opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again. But just as Masha dares to imagine the future, the past comes roaring back ...

Review: Although I know that Ruth Hogan's last (and debut) novel, The Keeper of Lost Things, met with much acclaim, it somehow passed me by; hence, this book is my introduction to her work. I was intrigued by the book's synopsis. It promises a cast of interesting and unusual characters and situations. I would have to admit that I found the story quite difficult to get into, as I felt a bit lost, but my perseverance was rewarded with a truly heartwarming tale. 

When we meet the main character, Masha, she is almost literally drowning in grief for a tragedy she experienced 12 years previously. She is somehow existing from day to day when not at work by visiting graves in the local cemetery and swimming in the sometimes freezing cold waters of the town's lido. In the cemetery, Masha imagines details of the lives of the departed and chats to them on her visits. However, it is 2 very much alive elderly women she encounters, one who she christens Sally Red Shoes and another named Kitty Muriel, who may prove her salvation. Sally is an amazing character who also visits the cemetery and feeds the crows there. She has the appearance of a bag lady and an interesting turn of phrase at times, but also a beautiful singing voice. The other woman who plays a major role in the book is Alice, who lives on the edge of town with her son, Mattie. As the story progresses, we learn more and more about the background of all these women and what has brought their lives together. 

As I have said already, I did find this book hard to get into, but once I began to understand the characters and interactions, I was eager to find out more and finished it quite quickly. I really have to mention the book's beautiful and intricate cover that illustrates various elements found in the story. Once you have finished reading, you can look at it and identify all the parts of the tale they represent. I can really recommend this thought-provoking book to anyone looking for something a little different. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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