The Girl With Glass Feet – Ali Shaw (NTTVBG – Book Two)

Welcome to the second in the first series of Not The TV Book Group. I am Simon Savidge and your rather nervous rabbit in the headlights host today. Joining me on the freshly plumped sofa’s are my lovely fellow co-hosts Kim of Reading Matters, Kirsty of Other Stories and your previous host Lynne of Dovegreyreader for a discussion of all things related to Ali Shaw’s debut novel ‘The Girl With The Glass Feet’.

Last time we came to you from the depths of rural Devonshire. Today you will all be joining us not in my current home of Tooting in South London, as I am saving that for ‘Skin Lane’, but from somewhere a little more appropriate to the book, in fact somewhere I used to live many moons ago. This is all thanks to the joys of this being virtual and as I am hosting today it’s also subject to my whims.

That’s right it’s my Grandparents old house. This wonderful old building on a forest covered former quarry in the depths of Derbyshire (Matlock Bath in case you are interested) was the home of my childhood and where I first learnt to read and became a rather large fan of the fairytale. So much of a fan I called my pet duck Rapunzel, no really it’s true. This seemed the perfect place for you all to pop by and chat about what I think is one of the best modern fairytales I have read. I am hoping you agree. Before we get on with the book do help yourself a nice cup of tea and to one of the many, many cream cakes I have brought from the famous local Bird’s Bakery (seriously nowhere is like it for cakes). Now then onto some book discussion…

I am slightly stuck on where to start with ‘The Girl With The Glass Feet’ and this makes me even happier that I have twenty four hours and more to go on discussing it with you all as it was so full of discussable delights, for me anyway. I guess to start at the beginning would help wouldn’t it? Like all good fairytales you need a great setting and for this such tale we are given St Hauda’s Land an archipelago of islands somewhere snowbound and filled with forests and mystery and yet somewhere very much of ‘the now’ even if a little different from the rest of the world and the mainland.

“Maybe you noticed something different. When you returned to St Hauda’s Land. A taste on the air. A mannerism the birds have. A peculiar snowfall, making almost mathematical patterns. A white animal that’s not an albino.”

Someone who has indeed returned is Ida MacLaird, for when she first came to St Hauda’s Land something unusual happened after a run in with Henry Fuwa and a strange creature, the after effects being that she is slowly but surely turning into glass. Feeling that Henry is the only person who can help her she returns but Henry doesn’t want to be found, instead meets an unlikely hero in the form of Midas Crook a man she can’t help but like and a man who she feels can help. As it happens Midas is a man so emotionally complex and deeply withdrawn, a man who prefers to look at the world via a camera lens than his own eyes could take quite some time to unfold (well it wouldnt be such a good read and indeed such a fairytale if things went too smoothly) and possibly rescue her, time however is something that Ida does not have.

I was mesmerised from the opening of the book, which actually throws you in a lot quicker than I thought it would. We are literally bundled into the world of Midas there and then on the very day that he meets Ida, it’s that instant. I was expecting something slower, a tale that lead up to a fateful event rather than this delightfully different start with a slow unfolding of background stories, explanations, added twists and coincidences following on. I liked and didn’t predict that everything from the tale to the characters all seem to interlink somewhere along the way weaving a web you drawn into and held by.

I know we said we would discuss endings on the NTTVBG, and we all can, but just I don’t want to pop the books ending on the main post as I genuinely feel it would ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read the whole thing, pop back to the comments when you have would be my tip for the day. Is this a cop out? Maybe, but seriously I had no idea what the ending would be and if I had I think I would have felt something was stolen from me, does anyone else think that – ooh that’s something to discuss in the comments as the day goes on. So instead of endings I will turn to the rather quirky characters.

As hero and heroine, an unlikely pair at that and occasionally utterly maddening, naturally we spend most of the time with Ida and Midas and so for me at least they needed to be likeable. Oh I did like them, flaws and all (I bet Snow White and Prince Charming had issues Disney just deleted them) and actually I think the flaws only made them and the story stronger for me. I also loved the crazy reclusiveness of Fuwa another unlikely important figure in the whole proceedings. They all spoke to me, I wanted to spend time with them, get to know them and most importantly read on.

The writing, oh the writing… see there is so much to talk about. The writing for me was modern and yet poetic it had that magical like quality and yet never seemed far fetched or unconvincing even when tiny moth-winged cows were flying about the landscape. This to me is the sign of a great book and a marvellous writer, it could have been easy for this book to have become a parody of a fairytale and instead I was captivated and utterly spellbound for the whole journey.

I normally whack out a few questions at the end of a post, I know Lynne isn’t a fan of this, today I think I will get the ball rolling with one quick question. What did you think then? There, I will leave it in your capable hands; I will be back around 10am to conflab further as there is still so much I want to discuss!



Filed under Ali Shaw, Atlantic Books, Book Group, Book Thoughts, Books of 2010, Not The TV Book Group, Review

141 responses to “The Girl With Glass Feet – Ali Shaw (NTTVBG – Book Two)

  1. “Mesmerising” is absolutely the word for my reaction to the book, but it was somewhat against my better judgment. This review captures some of it, as does this; essentially it struck me as very self-aware in some ways, and not at all (or uncaring) in others, to the point of reinforcing a number of uncomfortable stereotypes. I will say, though, that I never doubted the ending. Perhaps my favourite thing about the book is its entropic melancholy, the contrast between the moments of beauty or gentleness, and the inevitable unwinding of an unhappy circumstance.

    • Those reviews are excellent, Niall. Thanks for pointing them out. I particularly liked the Strange Horizons one, because I think it sums up the book beautifully and I felt I could have said this myself: “I don’t know if I enjoyed The Girl with Glass Feet, although I admire it and I’m glad to have read it. It was not a quick read: the depths of the language and the obliqueness of the text require thought and digestion. The characters are odd, quirky, not always likable, but they are interesting and engaging and often sympathetic.”

  2. ana

    Here on the other side of the world we’re awake and delighted to see the discussion site “live”. So glad you chose this novel to discuss. What a beautifully designed book. I fell for the charming silvered edges and whimsical cover design straightaway.

    Neither are favoured genres of mine, not the love story nor the magical realism aspects. So I was out of my comfort zone and discovered that I was stimulated, entertained and more importantly impressed with the quality of the writing. I do so agree with you that it quite captivates. Very often I found myself rereading descriptions since they were so apt and so freshly minted. While some of the magical elements challenged me a little, I was won over by his skill and happily carried along by the narrative, fascinated too by the references to photography. As a non-photographer, these descriptions made me want to get out there looking for light myself.

    The imagery of light and colour is so effective. He begins as a photographer on his quest searching for elusive light and finds Ida in the woods.

    She is an amazing heroine. She lives bravely, in contrast to almost all the other characters in the novel. So amany or defeated by life. There seem to be no effective female characters, apart from her and the child Denver. Is that how it seems to you?
    Men, apart from his great friend Gustav, are all frail or tortured or both. Ida is gutsy and determined and ultimately does indeed “carry on with things” and doesn’t “indulge in any mumbo jumbo”

    She follows her heart and rescues Midas who seems more frozen than she literally is becoming. Won’t forget the image of the jellyfish which glow before they die [?] “The jellies darkened in quick succession as if something were swimming through the water snuffing them out.” p 196 Wonderful description, it was so vivid and such a chilling foreshadowing [say no more?]
    Did others find the conclusion uplifting? I was surprised by how buoyant I felt. I did want to rush out and recommend it to friends.

    • Ana thanks so much for being so early, did you grab yourself some cakes and things, it seems you were joined quite soon after, I hope you had a good old nosey round the house (I did at Lynne’s you just can’t help yourself can you)?

      I am not good with a love story I have to say, I only tend to like them if they are a bit warped and in some ways it was the magical twist and the sense of impending, not doom but along those lines, which made it work for me. A lot like the TimeTraveller’s Wife did. Unusual tale in a very normal setting… actually no maybe the setting wasnt so normal. But what a setting in did.

      I love your point that Ida does in a way rescue Midas, I hadn’t looked at it like that. She is also very brave, I liked how forthright and yet secretive she was all at once.

      I wouldnt say I was bouyant at the end as I might possibly have had to have had a hanky at the ready, I won’t shame myself further.

    • I did find the ending uplifting Ana, and I was very relieved to read it, but something stopped me engaging emotionally with these characters and I still haven’t figured out what, it was almost as if Ali Shaw took me so far and no further.
      Certainly felt like a very clear division, the women came out of it very badly apart from little Denver, but then what does the future hold for her living on this island?

      • Yes, I liked the ending. Ali Shaw could have been very predictable and written a soppy ending, where Ida is cured and she marries Midas and the two of them go and live happily ever after, but instead he’s gone for a unpredictable conclusion.

        I love that Midas learns to dive. But do you think he was doing it in order to find Ida on the bottom of the ocean, and, if that’s the case, what do you think he would do when he found her?

  3. Danica Rice

    I don’t even know where to BEGIN with this one… and I agree, being in the USA, I came home from a classical concert put on by students at the University, and found this up, I was giddy!

    For me, the beginning didn’t quite click for me at first.. Kept going “yea, yea…get on with it?” and didn’t particularly like either main character at first… Midas seemed pathetic.. It wasn’t until later in the novel I began to like him more… Ida seemed mysterious but at the same time patronizing too, so she put me off a little bit, in their first encounter… so the beginning didn’t totally win me over. However, as the book progressed, I found myself going “HOLY SHIT!” aloud twice…which of course, made my lovely boyfriend (who was playing World of Warcraft on his computer at the time) want to read it all the more, even if he already wanted to when I bought it!

    Was it just me or did anybody get stuck in figuring out just how it happened?? I understand the whole “seeing the eyes of a mysterious creature” but I never could figure out where (if at all) it mentioned how Ida ran into that particular creature, and Midas Sr. too for that matter…. and why did his heart only turn into glass, not the feet, or arms, or some other external extremity ?

    I wonder…Do you think Midas Jr. will get turned into glass himself? The reason I say that is, remember the part about the bird he sees in the Enghem forest?? Or was that just a byproduct of the so-called creature? Also, that conversation he had with Mr. Stallows was interesting wasn’t it??

    And… GOD the jellyfish thing… I don’t know if anybody else has seen this movie, but I just saw “Seven Pounds” today, and the fellow in it committed suicide by getting stung by a jellyfish, so the day after I finished Girl With the Glass Feet, I saw that movie…. it was unsettling.

    Was anybody else utterly pissed off by the lack of closure between Midas and his father?? Well, I got the impression he finally read the letter, but maybe it was just the part that said “Dear Midas” and he’d thrown the rest of it to the wind? That part really wasn’t clear… I really really wanted to hear WHAT Midas Sr. had to say for himself, because really, he was quite a detestible character in my book…

    And ugh, I did not like Carl… what a creep.. all he could think about was her mother… Which makes sense in some ways, but geez.

    What did you think of the parallels between father-son/father-daughter in this book?? The relationship between Ida and her dad, and Denver and Gustav/Midas Jr., Carl and Ida, Evaline and Midas Jr., and Midas/Midas Sr………..

    The Henry Fuwa character bewildered me…

    For instance, WHAT the hell was that all about when he FINALLY goes to Martyr’s Pitfall and sees Evaline…and NOTHING HAPPENS?!?!? Was she numbed by glass too, I wonder?

    When Midas and Ida make love, and she feels glass inside her, I wonder, the bringing together of the two, would he be submitted to the glass himself? What about Evaline and the elder Midas?? Did that happen? You have to wonder, the way she seemed so “dead” towards the end.. Ida at least retained her energy and LIFE..

    Emiliana Stallows was a fascinating character too, but … hmm, her and Hector’s relationship wasn’t exactly orthodox either, I notice…

    What is the theme here, in relationships?? What do you all think??

    I am aware I probably raised more questions than answers 😛

    • Blimey Danica I think if ever any one of us hosts is sick we should call you in! Glad you were giddy to see it up so early. I found the first awkward encounter worked for me, it was disjointed but then so were Ida and Midas!

      I didn’t actually wonder how it happened until you just mentioned it but Henry does mention that ‘visitors rarely come to the islands’ and I wondered if maybe on the mainland they know something of these islands and the possibly folklore and magic they hold. There are some caves up the road from where you are being hosted today in Derbyshire that have that feel about them, tourists go, locals dont.

      • I came really unstuck with Martyr’s Pitfall because every time I read it I could only think of Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, and coalmines and things:-)
        Simon, I’ve probably been in those caves and like you there are places down here which have a very eerie feel to them and locals wouldn’t go near. Even whole villages I got to know as I worked in them, places where you just wouldn’t want to live but couldn’t always put your finger on why…I’m thinking I should have checked out their feet:-)

      • Hahaha, maybe I should check some of the locals feet around these parts? Mind you with all the hills around here and steep climbs if you had glass feet you would move somewhere much flatter.

        I do still love that parts of Britain folklore and tales of certain places live on.

  4. Excellent choice, Simon! I agree with Ana that this book made me want to go out and “find the light” locally.

    I liked Midas and Ida which was strange because so much of what they each did and said infuriated me. I just wrote up a post on my blog for this book and really what came to me was that this is a story of change and contradiction. While Midas is “thawing out”, Ida is “freezing up”, so to speak.

    Ana – I definitely found the ending to be uplifting and somehow didn’t feel a sense of loss. I don’t know if that was the preparation for it that we were given through the whole novel or if it was the final consequence and the change in Midas.

    Danica – He never saw the letter. We only knew the start of it from when his father was writing it. Midas only opened the book for the first time to tear out the pages and throw them off the cliff.

    And my impression was that Ida and Mr. Crook were the only ones literally turned to glass and all the other characters were just paralyzed by their own lives and minds.

    Well, I think this is a terrific book for discussion so I will be back after sleep. I’m going to take a cake with me for the road though!

  5. Just stopping briefly to say: I still have 40 pages to go! I’ll be back in a couple of hours! 🙂

  6. henrietta

    Thanks Simon for the tea and very appropriate venue. The proximity of the trees to the house is especially suitable.

    So many thought provoking comments already! The book certainly gives us lots to discuss. I did enjoy it, and found it a quick and easy read. THe isalnds and the landscape were painted so vividly, the dense woods, the rushing water, the bleak bogs, hills, snow, sea, ice, I really felt drawn into the world of St Hauda’s Islands. I even googled it soon after I started, (how sad is that!) – but of course its’ other wordliness becomes more evident the further you read.

    Midas and Ida, a sort of chalk and cheese couple, are the focal point. We learn quite a bit of Midas’s past, not quite enough about Ida. We know that she first came to the islands in the summer and was supposed to come with her boyfriend. DId her coming alone after that break up leave her more vulnerable to the mysteries of the islands? I do feel that “love” in various ways shapes this novel. The infatuation (Carl), the un-requited (Carl), the crush (Henry), the cold (Hector), the un-fulfilled (Emillina), the bereaved (Gustav) and then Ida and Midas.

    Danica – I don’t think that the “mysterious creature” was responsible for the glass. I beleive that was something different, another magical aspect of the island. The coming of the glass was not explained – probably making it more mysterious. I did wonder if Midas was going to become white before the end, although I don’t think he ever came face to face with the creatrure

    Henry and Evaline. How sad, and how weird. I should so hate to be sent a box of dead dragonflies! Henry seems to be an outsider who has settled on the islands, yet has a greater understanding of them than most of the inhabitants. The moth winged cattle were a bit of a stretch for me, but their beauty helped. When we first meet Henry he seems almost incoherant. It was somewhat of a suprise to meet him in his bogland home and find him so eloquent. I would have liked to know a bit more about him, as I felt he was a key player.

    How lucky Midas was to have Gustav and Denver. I felt that Denver was in tune with much of the magic and undercurrents of the story.

    Yes Ana, the descriptions of the light and photography added a whole other element to the book. I wanted to see those pictures on Midas’ kitchen wall. Intersting too that when Ida returns to the islands, she is wearing almost monachorme clothes, rather than her more usual colours. I really liked that Ida did not want to be photographed, and ultimatly Midas understood that the images he had in his heart were the images of most value.

    I found it so poignant that the single line “Dear Midas…” was able to give Midas so much. Just knowing that his father had been thinking of him, that crumb found long after his death was able to fill him with the love his father had never been able to express in life. Yes,Danica, it was frustrating not to read the letter, but the important thing was surely that Midas Jr knew he was not forgotton.

    Looking forward to reading everyone elses thoughts later.

    • The more I read all your comments the more I am unsure of why she did become glass… I might have to re-read over the course of the day and see if I can figure it out! I thought it was either just the island or the moth-winged cows eyes, I didnt even think of the creature with the light.

      Oh and I dont think you will be alone in the googling.

    • Henrietta, I was a bit exercised over the flying baby cow-moths too and couldn’t quite see their significance in the book beyond really taking it into the realms of magical realism, I was a bit bothered about the miniature forceps delivery. I just think I wasn’t sufficiently in touch with my imagination for this book, on another day I’d probably have been completely bowled over by it. But the sense of place was magnificent, very well done, it tapped into all those Shetland/ Orkney feelings of cold islands with a warm heart (except warm hearts seem hard to come by in St Hauda’s Land, bless Gustav, he was a star!) and people wearing woolly jumpers (sorry, that’s me and the knitting again) and that did all work really well for me.

  7. ana

    We did get to read what Midas Snr wrote but Midas Jnr doesn’t. That is what was very poignant for me. He does realise though that what he wrote wouldn’t have been hurtful,since he had gone to “such convert trouble” p262. And he does keep the page with him which has only two words decipherable. He puts it into his shirt pocket and seems to move on, turning to Ida, who kisses him at that very moment. Some type of resolution of his relationship with his father?

    • I didnt ever feel the relationship with his father was ever really resolved, but in real life some relationships are like that. Did anyone else find the scene where Midas runs away from school and sort of saves his father then becomes quite hard hitting and dark when you the reader realise he has given his father better ideas? That bit got to me a little, any one else?

      • ana

        Thanks for the goodies, Simon. The catering is splendid. The substantial hot canapes particularly welcome in the frosty climate of these fictitious islands.
        I agree with the “creepy” evaluation, but surely it leads inevitably to the absolutely shocking suicide scene. That left me reeling [and mystified] at that point and to be honest, for most of the rest of the novel. Certainly would explain Midas’ emotional frostiness.

  8. Louise

    This was my first book group read and really not the kind of book I would ordinarily choose to read. Not being very good at suspending disbelief I tend to avoid anything that is fairy tale, fantasy or sci fi. However, I was determined to stick with this one so I could join the discussions today.

    Whilst this was fairy tale like, there was enough real life stuff in there to keep me interested. The people were very real, the relationships intriguing, the Henry- Evalina relationship especially fascinated me and I hoped for a happier ending here.

    The landscape and setting reminded me of something Tim Burton would create. I kept thinking of Midas as being one of the characters in The Corpse Bride. I was also reminded of my holiday last year to the Isles of Scilly, similarly disconnected from ‘the mainland’ in so many ways.

    I liked the fact that the last time we see both Midas and Ida they are diving to the bottom of the sea. Interesting too that Midas’s name has Ida in the middle – a coincidence or meaningful?

  9. ana

    Have to own up Henrietta that you weren’t alone in googling the islands!! I liked your analysis of the characters as representing differing types of love. Makes a great deal of sense and works well with the fairy tale structure as well. Colour is indeed very important here, its absence also significant.

  10. Oh wow how lovely to see so many of you chatting away already! I hope you have all helped yourself to tea. I believe The Converted One is making some ‘proper’ coffee and traditional northern bacon butties so do help yourselves to those.

    I will make every effort to reply to you all at some point today, I am just going to read all your thoughts over coffee and catch up! Oh I am excited!

  11. gaskella

    I was lucky enough to meet the author recently, and he was a remarkable young man to talk to. We had long discussions in the group about magic realism and what it is – he wasn’t keen on the term or genrification into fantasy, and doesn’t see his book as either, rather just a love story with magic. He was great at talking about the magic in the story – that you have to pay for using it – very Faustian. But to the story …

    I really liked Midas, although I wanted to shake him and tell him to do something at times. I love Kristen’s comment about him thawing out as Ida freezes up. I’m so glad they made it in the end, and despite shedding a tear at the ending, I felt happy-sad.

    What I really want to do though, is read the book again soon. I was so drawn in by the main story and its race against time, I didn’t stop to think about why it was all happening or to dwell upon Midas’ past enough. Although I was slightly confused by the moth-winged cattle and Henry, I didn’t dislike them though, as I loved the entire book.

    • Oh the questions I could fire at Ali Shaw!!! I have so much I would like to ask him. It is really a love story or set of lovestories with magic. Why do people always need to pigeonhole a book? It’s always intrigued me.

      I think I want a rree-read there seems so much I missed.

      • henrietta

        Very interesting Shaws comment “you have to pay to use magic” – perhaps it is a balance thing. To begin with, having not read the blurb as usually avoid it, I had thought “Ali” was a woman. Do you think a woman might have turned a different corner at the end – maybe love conquering all?

  12. Wow. Great to see so many comments here already.

    However, I must put up my hand and say I really didn’t like this book very much at all. I think it was because I was utterly frustrated by the characters, in particular Midas who was so passive throughout and so pathetic when it came to admitting his feelings for Ida. I just wanted to reach into the book, shake him by the shoulders and tell him to stop being such a scaredy cat! I wanted to cheer Gustav when he came to blows with him a little near the end… because it’s what I’d been wanting to do all along.

    Actually, come to think of it, why are all the men in this book so weak-willed and passive? Henry Fuwa hides himself away. Hector Stallows does something similar. Carl is just, well, horrible. And Midas Snr can’t relate to anyone, so shuts himself away, too.

    Perhaps Ali Shaw is making a comment — that you don’t have to be made of glass to be cold and unknowable??

    • I think you are most definitley onto something there Kim (by the way grab a bacon sarnie they have just arrived – in fact I am going to vanish briefly to get some more myself).

      It does seem so far that the concencus is love him or loathe him Midas needed a good shake. Did you only want to call him a scardy cat, twice I used some much stronger language as he truly frustrated me but then weirdly I loved the book more for that. It showed I cared I guess.

    • Loretta

      Most of the characters were mysterious to me. Why did Midas’ mom give up so completely? Why did his father become so cold, did his heart of glass start first or did it follow his coldness. Although I enjoyed the read, I felt that I was left wondering about the motivation of most of the characters.

  13. Colette Jones

    I gave up on this book fairly early on. I don’t like books where many character’s points of view are detailed to the reader, and this seemed one of those books. I am interested in your comments though, and love the book group.

  14. winstonsdad

    i didn t get may hands a copy til friday afternoon from local library ,feel there a lot of classic folk tales within the story it feels like a old tale updated

  15. *waves* not participating yet (avoided spoilers by not reading comments – thanks not including them in post) as only started the book last night. Just showing my friendly space for moral support :P. See? Nothing to worry about!

  16. winstonsdad

    thus maybe me being daft but ida is within midas name as thou she has to be there to make mIDAs whole

  17. Valerie

    Morning all, snowing again then…. I’ve left my brolly by the door! Not finished this yet, so trying not to read discussion on end bits. Well, did anyone get the refs to gold and yellow on the first couple of pages where we first meet Midas? and ‘seeing’ through glass and lenses. I too am wondering if Ida being part of Midas (name) becomes more relevent as the story progresses, Also, I did start off thinking that Ali was female and will think more about that and the impact of him not being later on. Back later…. V

    • Oh you can pop that in the porch Valerie, maybe leave your wellies there too. I didn’t spot the relevance of yellow and gold I might have a second look at that, for me the book was very much abit whiteness and blue which is odd seing as lots of it was in forest!

      • So more relevance to the Midas myth and everything that he touches turning to gold but actually that not being quite so jolly a prospect as it sounds? And Winstonsdad I love that theory about the Midas name.

      • Anne

        I was intrigued by the names, and spotted the Ida within Midas thing early on and thought it couldn’t be accidental. I also wondered about the links with the Midas myth.,
        I wondered whether it was significant that in the myth, Midas reverses the spell that turns whatever he touches to gold by plunging into the river Pactolus, and pouring its water on anything he wants to turn back into its normal state. The first thing he does is to pour water on his daughter. No such easy endings in GWGF,of course, but there was a sense in which Ida’s plunge into the waters saved Midas jr. from his frozenness. Ida is at the heart of mIDAs , in a sense taking his”glassiness” on herself. (his father’s heart became glass, and perhaps his own might have gone the same way. )
        It seemed to me that there was a lot in the Girl with Glass Feet about fathers and the effect they had on their children, without meaning to, perhaps because, like the original Midas, they had made bad bargains, not really thinking through the impact of their choices.
        In the myth it is his daughter turning to gold which brings Midas to his senses.
        These are rather disconnected ramblings, but the names are so unusual that it seems impossible they aren’t significant – what about the Crook surname, too. What is it that is crooked, or does it imply greed? (It was the original Midas’ greed which led him to ask for the Golden Touch)

      • I did for a little while wonder if it would be a case of ‘The Midas Touch’ and he would simply touch her and something would change… though really that would have been too obvious and a much shorter tale with less impact.

    • I totally didn’t notice Ida being in Midas. Whoops!

      I wondered about the Midas touch too. Perhaps there was a tinge of irony in that everything seemed to go rather wrong for the poor bloke? Mere speculation on my part, of course…

  18. Hello everyone! While I didn’t LOVE this book, I certainly didn’t dislike it. I do want to pick up on something kimbofo said about the weak men. I noticed that too, but I also noticed that the women were all physically compromised somehow. Ida, obviously, and the glass. Catherine, who dies in the pool. Evalina and her limp from the jellyfish sting. There’s only Denver unscathed, with her innate understanding of the adults around her.

    One thing I did love about the novel, though, was the setting. I got it into my head that St Hauda’s Land was off the coast of Scotland. The scenery felt Scottish, somehow. And I don’t know whether it was homesickness coming through, but I just loved reading about it.

    • I kind of pictured it as West Coast Scotland too… Although I also felt it could have been Nova Scotia or even the west coast of Ireland. I liked the fact that it’s a completely made up place and doesn’t exist in real life, because that adds to the mystery of it.

      • gaskella

        At our evening with Ali, he said the setting was imaginary northern islands – something like, but not, the Faroes or Newfoundland, which was where I’d put it. We all seem to have a clear view of where it’s set for us!

      • In my head it was somewhere Nordic but that might be cause I have been reading some Wallander and watching it of late so everything is set in that sort of area if it has snow.

    • henrietta

      I was also off the west coast of Scotland somewhere. We are told that visitors come for the sun and sand in the summer, so must be temperate.

  19. Sorry I’m late Simon, do you want to bung these daffs in a vase and are you OK if I bring my knitting along because this venue is just perfect, lovely and relaxing and yes please…Earl Grey, dash of milk and er…that big chocolate eclair there…thanks.
    I’ve spent a bit to time re-reading the ending again this morning because this book didn’t wow me instantly, grew on me slowly but like Kim it just hasn’t bowled me over.
    I usually look to me rather than the author in the first instance. I’ve been reading some really gritty reality novels at the moment so to add in some magical realism upset the reading apple cart a bit I think and I’ve emerged the other end feeling that the depth and the poetry has all glossed over me and not sunk in.
    I wonder if that makes sense to anyone? Sometimes your reading senses are tuned in elsewhere and I found myself getting a bit impatient with it all.
    I took myself off around the internet last night in search of Ali Shaw and found him doing a radio interview for the US. I had been searching in my mind for the fairy tale equivalents in this book, the references because I was stuck on Cinderella and the glass slipper image so it was interesting to hear Ali Shaw mention Hans Christian Andersen and The Little Mermaid.
    I also liked the idea that he didn’t want an explanation for everything and so hadn’t provided them in the book, this is magic and myth and of course the Midas touching gold thing which I had been puzzling over too.
    Ali Shaw also talked about the camera and that had been plaguing me all through the book and seemed hugely significant in how it allows Midas to create a safe distance between himself and this strange but knowable world.

    • I’m the same. Whenever I don’t like a book I usually blame myself rather than the writer… unless, of course, the writing is so dire that it’s plain that I’m not at fault. LOL! But, in the case of The Girl With Glass Feet I thought the writing was lovely, but it had such a heavy emphasis on scene-setting (practically every chapter opens with descriptions of the landscape etc) and said so little about what was really going on in people’s minds that I always felt one-stepped removed from what was happening. And, like Lynne, I’ve been reading some gritty books lately and wondered whether it was just me… I actually found it hard to believe that Midas and Ida were in love, because there is practically no discussion or dialogue about feelings in this novel.

    • Knitting is most welcome Lynne, Granny Savidge Reads may very well join you later from Matlock. Oh and no worries on being a little late the hills here are a mare too, in fact Upperwood Road which we are on is one of the steepest hills in Derbyshire, apologies everyone!

      I am sorry you werent bowled over by it, and yet not because it adds to the discussion at the same time. I do like that we all look to ourselves when we don’t like a books, we are clearly as tough on ourselves as we are the books which I think is right! I might have to find that interview.

      I think I need to go and get more Bird’s treats we have had much more visitors than I could have hoped for already!!

  20. winstonsdad

    i had donegal in my head ,spent many happy hour there as a youth

  21. Kirsty I loved the setting too, very north, very cold somewhere north of Shetland almost, but in many ways this book so macabre. The descriptions of the way the flesh turned to glass and to be honest I was a bit worried we were going to get a glimpse of an embryo as that glass spread.
    Eventually I think , perhaps because I’m a nurse, once I had likened the spread of the glass in Ida’s body to perhaps a metaphor for terminal cancer I could somehow relate much better to the book. That’s more about me struggling for ways to make the whole thing real which of course it isn’t ,but it felt like a possible way to interpret Ali Shaw’s novel. Especially in relation to the mumbo jumbo jellyfish treatment and how easy it is for people to pin hopes on absolutely anything, no matter how bizarre or costly, if it offers a glimmer of hope. Then Ida’s courage in saying no more treatment etc.

    • Oh yes, I saw Ida’s illness as some kind of terminal disease like cancer… in many ways this book is very much about mortality and our own fragile hold on the world.

      The book is actually full of death… suicides mainly.

    • gaskella

      That’s an interesting interpretation – the terminal cancer.

      Back to Hans Christian Andersen, Ali also talked about him at our evening, and that his fairy tales were the saddest of them all.

    • bluegenes

      …or even ida + MS???

    • I thought there might be an “embryo” as well … because for Midas to think about becoming a father himself would have added a whole ‘nother depth here. And yet, I think it would have also been a bit too much, right?

  22. Kim, interesting about the description and whereas I wasn’t picking up all the similes in Brodeck’s Report I was noticing them all here! But Ali Shaw’s were often quite beautiful and so incongruous in his choice of words, very clever, so didn’t mind

    • Are we all agreed even if we didnt all love the characters or maybe the story (oh dear) we appreciated his writing I think he is one to watch out for in the future.

      • Oh Simon, without a doubt, he’s an incredibly talented writer with a huge imagination, I can’t wait to read anything else he writes,plus the joy of this was to get us reading books we might not usually pick up and I doubt we’ll find a book that everyone loves everything about.
        There were hints of so much else in here too, There’s a really good little book that I recommend a lot for explaining death to children called Waterbugs and Dragonflies and I was reminded of it on p120 (in my copy) when Eveline and Henry are watching them hatching.

      • Yes, he’s a great writer with a terrific imagination. I didn’t fall in love with the book, and that probably says more about me than it does about Shaw’s storytelling abilities. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with next. Will he stick to this fairy-tale / magic realism stuff or go for something completely different?

      • Absolutely, I think he is someone to watch out for. Some of his turns of phrase were pitch perfect, but like DGR and kimbofo, I think it might have been the magical realism elements that alienated me slightly. That said, I’m very pleased that I’ve read it, I didn’t *not* enjoy it.

      • I definitely would read something else by him. His writing was a bit British though, wasn’t it? (Certain phrases and word choices that seemed odd since he wasn’t trying to place it as a British story.) I think he will have to work on making his language more universal to be truly successful. Not that there’s anything wrong with British slang but I think it could be off-putting to more general readers.

  23. winstonsdad

    it is remind me of owen sheers white raven which is part of a series coming out retelling the welsh folk tale mabinogion

  24. Beate Schlotmann

    Girl with glass feet wasn’t a book I would have picked up, if it wasn’t for the NTTVBC, but I throughly enjoyed it anyway. Which proves, that this whole project is absolutely brilliant !

    When I started reading I was wondering, where exactly St Hauda’s Land is and tried to find out with google earth…. That turned out to be quite difficult ! So it was only then that I realized, Ali Shaw had made “his own small world” – animals, trees, everything. That was the moment, I was no longer “bored” with all the descriptions of landscapes and weather.
    The island with all its quirky flora and fauna became very vivid and real. I especially liked the flying cows and the way Henry Fuwa took care of them.

    I didn’t really buy the love story between Midas and Ida though. Ida is such a nice girl : full of life, friendly, open and verbal, whereas Midas comes across as really weird, close to dull.
    – Which is no wonder, thinking of the life he’s had. – But why on earth should they fall for each other ?Sure, Midas has a lot of depth and more than meets the eye, but still. They are a strange match. Ida kind of rescues him, brings him to life while she herself loses her life. And if it wasn’t for her approaching death some things might never have happened….

    All in all I think it’s a good read, though a lot of questions remain unanswered. But that doesn’t matter !

    Thanks to Simon for having me ! You’ve been a brilliant host !

    • I didn’t buy the love story either. I couldn’t really get a handle on Midas, he seemed sooooooo unbelievably shy and passive. But then maybe Ida found the idea of him being a photographer attractive and that’s what made him intriguing to her?

    • I was a fan of the flying cows, it was just such a random creature and that really worked for me.

      I thought that their getting together was believable as we dont always go for obvious partners do we? Don’t we all like the odd quirk or to feel we can change someone or bring happiness into someones life who might not have it?

      • I think it was also because she was trying to go for a different type since she was changing and reaching the end. I think Carl at one point talked about her terrible taste in men so it’s likely that she knew about it and tried going for something a bit less obvious.

  25. chris

    This discussion has been/is wonderful in enhancing my appreciation of the book. I wouldn’t have chosen it but am glad I decided to read it because of this forum. To pick up on something Lynne said I also thought that after Ida and Midas made love what she felt inside might have been a conception and that things would be resolved by the birth of a child. I was , of course, worried whether there would be time for the embryo to develop but thought the miracle of new life might have arrested the spread of the glass, Is this fantasy from a female view point given the discussion about the author’s gender?

    • henrietta

      I too had thought a new life might have saved the spread of the glass. It is such a powerful thing. Years ago I read a book about a young couple, and she develops terminal breast cancer. She fell pregnant, refused chemo/radio therapy, and the baby was born perfect, and the cancer had gone. Sounds like a fairy story, but was actually a true story. I wish I could remember the title.

  26. One thing I keep forgetting to bring up though mentioned in the post was how I felt Shaw did a marvellous job of not making this a parody which I did feel it could have become in the hands of someone who wasnt such a wonderful writer. Did anyone else feel that?

    • winstonsdad

      yes could have easily drifted in to farce or whimsy

    • Yes, completely agree with that. It had an absolute sense of integrity. Anything with magical or unreal elements needs to be careful, I think, of descending into the ludicrous. While this book wasn’t, ultimately, for me, I think, I do think that it managed to keep that balance throughout.

  27. I’ve not finished reading this yet but am enjoying it so far. The writing is beautiful, the description of place is breathtaking and it was an interesting puzzle to try to establish where St Hauda’s Land is actually set – the villages, High Street, etc. are quite British but the landscape (cold winter, hot summer) is otherwise. I let the prose lead the way in this regard. I like Ida although I’m not so crazy about Midas and agree that the love story doesn’t seem that realistic. Some of the men seem a bit creepy (Carl and Henry) and I wonder how their intentions toward Ida will play out.
    It is easy enough to buy into the fantasy of the place but I still can’t get a handle on the moth-winged bulls! How big are they exactly? I really had trouble picturing such a creature haha.

    • I think its been interesting seeing where everyone else thinks that it has been set. I thought it had been set in somewhere nordic or near Denmark (my geography is utterly terrible though) a lot of people feel it was Scotland and in a way Shaw has done something similar to Claudel of the last book we chose and not placed anything exactly which is clever and makes the reader have some freedom as to where to place it themselves.

  28. I agree that it doesn’t feel like a parody at all, which is definately down to the writing. The author presents it as a realistic tale – albeit with a few fantastic inclusions.

  29. farmlanebooks

    Great discussion so far!

    I thought this was a very strange book. Some sections were wonderful, but overall I just found it a bit weird. Why were there minature flying cows? Do people think tiny cows are cute? I just think of cows standing in muddy fields – making them small and adding wings just sounds like a very bizarre thing to do. Was there some symbolic reason for doing that?

    • I wondered the same thing (although I do think cows are cute!). I kept looking for symbolism but not finding it. Perhaps we just weren’t supposed to.

      • I think it was just the authors imagination and the fact the island was clearly a mysterious and magical place it just naturally had moth winged tiny cows. I didnt question it too much just let it take me with it.

        Lynne also mentioned the author said in an interview that he didnt want everything tied up and explained (am paraphrasing) and think that no bad things. Do we as readers need everything spelt out for us? What do people think?

  30. A bit late but the snow has been hard to battle through to get to your door! I could do with some of that proper coffee (no milk right?)

    Loving the discussion so far! I find myself agreeing with Niall and the reviews he includes that mention the problems with gender throughout the book, all the women are unhappy, or dead, or severely passive including Ida. I know much of her passivity is created by the problem of her glass feet, but for the first third of the book Shaw takes us away from the girl with glass feet, who this terrible thing is actually happening to and focuses on Midas, Henry etc. I think when Ida does become more involved and more active in the second half of the book it makes it a little hard to feel for her straight away, when I certainly felt like I was supposed to be having a stronger emotional response to her.

    dovergreyreader and kimbofo I agree I was likening the spread of glass to a terminal illness, although I immediately hit on a disease that affects the nervous system like MS for some reason.

    savidgereads I much prefered the relationships to the writing overall. I agree there are some great descriptions that swept me into the atmospheric woods, but the writing felt uneven, occassionally repetitive (see the first time Denver is decribed, a slightly different but essentially the same description is given of her just a few pages later) even self concious in other places while I felt like the relationships and the dialogue was solid throughout. Midas may have been too passive in places, Carl may have been just awful but their dialogue always matched their flaws perfectly. I could always feel the emotional connection (or lack of connection) as if they were real.

    I really want to know what everyone made of the ending where Midas learns to dive for that very particular reason (don’t want to give it away for anyone who hasn’t finished yet). At first I thought he was expanding his life, but the ending left me wondering if he was gaining the diving skill only to remain in stasis, to enable himself to avoid live realtionships once again?

    • You aren’t late at all Jodie we are open all hours and forever on the either so people can keep coming back as and when which hopefully adds to the joys of the NTTVBG.

      I can understand the feeling of repitition and if I hadnt liked it as much as I did that could have possibly gotten on my nerves.

      I wondered if he was diving to not come up again, thats a bit macabre though lol.

      • I got the impression that he was learning to dive to go recover her body. Like his mother still kept trying to touch his father or like Henry going to see his mother. It’s the hope that remains that there is still a chance.

    • henrietta

      I didn’t see Midas learning to dive as sinister. I saw it as a release. He has left the islands, and found colour, freedom and warmth.

      • I asked about the diving earlier… but think it got lost in the mix.

        I thought he was diving to rediscover Ida at the bottom of the ocean. But what would he do once he found her?

      • I wondered if with his family history, well his Dad, and the running theme of loss and at times suicide he was going to find her and stay with her… but that could be completely wrong. I might have a quick re-read of the end…

      • I think I saw the diving as a combination of releases for Midas, suddenly he’s up for a bit of adventure and exploration so that’s the legacy of Ida, but tied in with all that perhaps the final conquest of that phobia of seeing what happened to Midas senior when Midas junior was a child. Ultimately though I felt it was a symbolic means for him to keep in touch with Ida’s spirit and maintain contact with her.
        Did anyone else worry about that rowing boat in amongst those whales….

      • I’m also thinking about the diving mask being a different sort of lens for looking through into a different sort of world, a sort of camera replacement moment, but that might be taking it all step too far and I blame the alcohol that Simon had on offer over lunch for such a far-fetched idea…

      • I am not sure with a book with a premise like this any following thoughts could be too far fetched (mind you depends how many sneaky lunch time tipples we have), I think the realms of reality are definitely stretchable.

  31. I think my source of frustration with the novel was that I wanted to know more about the relationships between the characters. I wanted that to go deeper than it did. Fewer winged cattle and more psychological exploration please! 🙂

    I was fascinated by the relationship between Midas and his parents (and the relationship between the parents themselves) and I just didn’t feel like those relationships were resolved satisfactorily. I don’t mean that I was looking for everyone to have closure, but that I felt like there was more we the readers should have been told. That may well have been Ali Shaw’s intention, of course, but for me… I just wanted *a bit* more.

    • I understand what you mean about being slightly frustrated Kirsty. I wonder if Shaw was just trying to be true to life and the fact we dont always get the answers? Maybe thats a cop out theory, but its one I had in mind when reading it.

      But then if we look at fairytales and folklore of old what makes sense there? Maybe I am rambling… might need a lunchbreak haha. Who is for sandwiches???

    • Kirsty I’m trying to imagine the book without the flying mothcows, trying to figure out their purpose beyond telling us this is a. n. other world, not of the usual etc. I think I could have happily lost those and the book would have appealed to me more. But this is the stuff of fairy tales after all so the mothcows probably have to stay and I just have to blame my sad lack of magical thinking and imagination.

      • I think the mothcows might be a slight marmite factor in the book. Hee hee. I could visualise them but too me they didnt come across as cute at all, more a bit sinister – I think I think everything is sinister, oh dear!

      • If that is the case DGR I might have to be with you!

      • henrietta

        Did the moth winged cattle provide an initial link between Ida and Henry? Henry is convinced that Ida will divulge details to the wider world, while she returns to the islands to find Henry to help her.

      • I hadnt thought of the moth-winged cows being a plot device as indeed they are. Without that moment I dont know if the link with Ida and Midas would have gone any further its his knowing who Henry is and lying to her that sort of sets it in motion.

  32. The more I think about it the more I like the idea of each character portraying different aspects of emotion. I am slightly regurgitating this but its a theme thats appealing to me more and more as I think on it.

    Denver, who I thought was a great character – especially in the scene with the baubles and how she copes with things, portrays innocent love. Carl and Henry obsessive love and also a love that could have been (even if its a bit creepy, well I did label one as creepy Carl actually), Ida is like love unfullfilled…

    Is this the right track, what did other people think?

  33. Oooh and I know I have mentioned his writing already but to me this didnt read like a debut, it didnt read like someone who is on their sixth or more book but you get my point?

  34. gaskella

    A late post-prandial thought that just occurred to me that may help to explain the moth-winged cattle slightly: – at the author event I went to, he said that when he was working at the Bodleian, he got to see some medieval bestiaries which were amazing …

    Also the more I think about it, the more I see parallels with the Little Mermaid. I’m going to have to re-read both I can see.

    • No comment is too late on this discussion Annabel as its open and on the ether forever, I am hoping we get more and more comments as times go on.

      I have never read the Little Mermaid, isnt that bad? I think I might have to dig out a collection of original (the darker not the disney) fairytales in the next week or so.

  35. Simon that idea of him diving to stay with here is kind of macabre, but it’s where my mind went first!:) I also wondered if maybe he would be continually revisting her body, which is what I meant by distancing himself from real relationships.

    Loved the cattle btw, I thought they were sweet.

    • Sorry Jodie I go a bit dark when I go all deep on things, I dont know why that is. I was thinking Midas’s name would bring the whole Midas touch thing into play too so we never got the predictable!

  36. Another late post! (I’m in the U.S. and just finished the book in the mid-afternoon here). I’m so glad that this book was chosen for Not TV Book club, as it is not something I would have come across on my own in the U.S.

    Like many others,I found it absolutely mesmerizing too I felt like the ending, although she dies, isn’t a sad one. Ida’s illness/situation and the process of reaction she and those around her go, felt very authentic in terms of being similar to what someone with a terminal illness (end stage cancer etc.) and their family would go through go through. Carl is very focused (to an annoying degree) on finding a cure for what ails her and not allowing her to live out her final days in a peaceful manner. Ida at first goes along with this, but then wishes to spend her final time enjoying experiences with Midas.

    Some other thoughts/things I like: The clothes metaphor that runs throughout the book. All the references to metamorphoses and adaption of organisms (humans included to their environment). More on these on my blog (shortly).

  37. P.S. I was interested in if anyone had read Ovid’s The Metamorphoses and had any thoughts on the relationship of the two books.

    • Wow thats some very interesting thoughts. I hadn’t spotted the clothes metaphor at all so will look out for that one most definitley when I eventually give this a re-read. Thanks for joining in the discussion.

  38. Thank you for not giving the ending away in your post! 🙂 I am reading the book now, but I knew I wouldn’t finish in time for the discussion. Of course I am still a little curious, so had to pop over for a little peek. I’ll come back and read more when I finish!

  39. What wonderful discussion being generated! Exactly the reason I like taking part in read alongs/book groups – I always discover more about a book than by simply relying on my one interpretation. Unfortunately this just wasn’t the book for me – I could handle the magical realism elements (which is strange for me as that usually forms a block for me in liking a book) but it was the characters that let this book down for me – I just could not feel any empathy for any of them (with the exception of Denver who could have been the main character for me!).

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  43. beingmrsc

    Any tea left for a latecomer? I bring chocolate muffins too!

    Only managed to finish this book last night in bed (blame pregnancy altered sleep patterns) so have been avoiding all blog posts and comments until now to ensure I didn’t spoil anything.

    Well, where to start??? I’m not normally at all comfortable with things that aren’t set in a reality where I can imagine myself, and therefore I struggled in parts with this book. The people turning to glass was one thing that my brain could just about cope with, but when we got on to mothcows I had to make my brain sort of slip over that.

    The underlying love story here was, I thought, beautiful. What I found even more intriguing was all the love stories that were going on in different ways. Henry and Midas’ mum, Carl and Ida’s mum, Carl and Ida, Midas and his father. All different ways of showing love, and sometimes struggling to do so. So many of the characters in this book seemed to have flaws and have a hard time understanding their own emotions, let alone those of others.

    I found Midas’ fascination with photography and the way light can be captured on film (or digitally) quite interesting. To me it was a sign of his problems relating to other people, and instead looking to his hobby to fulfil another part of his life.

    Overall I really enjoyed the book, but to be honest I’m not at all sure if I’d read anything else of the same genre by choice. Challenging, but beautiful at the same time.

    One thing was very clear though – after all the discussion on Brodeck a couple of weeks back I found myself constantly wondering where the islands were! In my head somewhere like Scotland, Canada or Norway came to mind. Something seemed not quite British, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was…

    • Mrs C there are some lovely muffins left and plenty of tea and do not fear about being late the more the merrier I am hoping the conversation will keep going on and on.

      I love your thoughts on the love stories in the background as well as those at the forefront, I felt quite similar about this and the more we talked about it on Sunday the more I could see love in all its forms encapsulated in the book.

  44. Sorry I couldn’t make it yesterday, but I have enjoyed reading all the comments. I liked this book a lot, with far fewer reservations than many of you have expressed. I wasn’t particularly taken with the moth winged cattle, but that didn’t bother me too much as I saw them as reinforcing the non-realistic qualities of the book. Moreover, I got the impression that it was Ida’s accidental encounter with one of these creatures, when she collided with Henry on her first visit to the islands, that set in train her transformation.

    Several of you seem to have problems with the passivity and weak nature of the male characters in general and Midas in particular. Worryingly, I not only quite liked the male vulnerability aspect of the book, but there were a number of ways in which I could identify with our somewhat unheroic hero. Perhaps I should stop now before I paint myself as being rather pathetic?

    It seemed to me that one of the key messages of the book was that we should live life to the full while we have the chance. Ida had managed to cram a lot of travel and adventure into her life before she started to turn to glass, whereas Midas has spent nearly three decades avoiding most contact and retreating behind his camera. His short relationship with her finally teaches him to embrace life. Not only is Ida transformed in this tale, but she has a transformative effect on Midas. I think he is learning to dive at the end not primarily to go after Ida – although there is more than a hint that this is what he intends – but also because it is the sort of adventurous thing that she would do. Transformation is a common feature of fairy stories, of course. Think of all those frogs turning into princes?

    Yes, it might seem odd that someone as vibrant as Ida should become besotted with a guy like Midas, however, we are told that “she went after blokes who were wound into knots over who they were and how they tied into the world.” I had better not explore why a sentence like that should have leaped at me off the page. In fact perhaps I better shut up now, I’m sure I’ve gone on long enough. At least I don’t seem to share Midas’s trouble with words – more’s the pity, you may think!

    • I didnt think Ida going for Midas was that odd after all we see different things in different people so in a way it was just that she found something in him that is that certain je ne sais quoi! Iam sure we have all had that before.

      I hadn’t thought of the book being a case of life life while you can and now you have said it it seems blatantly obvious.

  45. I loved reading your posts and all the bits and pieces and comments. I am not that gone on the genre but still think the discussion is absolutely fascinating. Btw I have fallen in love with your childhood home (who wouldnt) and think that Rapunzel would be the perfect name in the circumstances!

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  47. Hey Simon. I am sorry that I haven’t been able to visit your blog lately, but I had my baby in November and have been busy ever since. I’ve read this book a while ago and I loved it. It’s now one of my favorite books!

    • I think I can let you off after having had a baby Andreea! Congratulations by the way, how is everything? Does having a baby allow you any time to read anymore? One of my friends is pregnant and was asking!

      • Thanks. Well, it’s stressful, but it’s also great because I have a beautiful baby girl:) As to the reading, well, the first 3 months have been tough and I didn’t read anything. Now it’s starting to get better as the baby sleeps longer and I can finally get back to my reading! Regarding your friend: I guess if she’s lucky to have an “easy” baby then she will be able to do more things, but if the baby has to deal with colic, a milk allergy and reflux like mine, then it’s going to be very hard, I don’t want to lie:)

  48. Kinga

    I liked the idea of the book more than the book itself. Obviously, there are good parts to it and I loved, loved the “turning into glass” aspect of the novel. The descriptions are powerful and very detailed and it really did take me away to another place.

    However, and this is a big however, I thought the book was too contrived and too predictable. I liked the ending, but, while I was reading, my single thought was: there’s no way these two will have a happy ending. And they didn’t. Despire Midas’ change, his new strength of character, his movement away from who his father was it wasn’t a surprise.

    I also felt that the author laboured too much to show us that Midas was a recluse, an introvert, almost hermit-like. And he spent too much time hinting that these two would fall in love but there really wasn’t any attraction between them. I felt that it was a bit poorly constructed in that way.

    In the end, I felt it was a good read, but not a great read. The love story turned a bit mushy-esque, the characters I had most hope for (Henry Fuwa and Carl just sort of faded away) and the end was (for me) a tad too predictable.

    • This is whats been great about everyone popping by and commenting, we are getting a really interesting spectrum of readers and their thoughts and opinions and the fact that this book brings up all these things is a credit to it and its discerning readers should they love it or not!

  49. offmytrolley

    I started reading this book whilst on holiday certain that I would finish it in time to take part in the discussion – wrong! I hadn’t gone very far before I felt like throwing in the towel, I seemed incapable of engaging with any of the characters. Whilst I feel that it improved and I began rooting for Ida and Midas, I still didn’t care for the others, except perhaps Henry Fuwa. I agree with DGR about the moth-winged cattle, they just didn’t fit in with the rest of it. I suppose I was disappointed not to come across The Saucepan Man, Dame Washalot and Moonface.

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  51. a doherty

    really enjoyed the discussion here. Like others I wouldnt have read this without the club prompt. Not normally a huge fan of magic realism. The underlying story and the themes of family relationships, love and loss kept me reading, though at times I found myself skimming the landscape descriptions. I found them getting repetitive. Shaw seems to break so many of the “rules” for writing fiction. He gets away with it a lot – which is as it should be with a skilled writer – but not always. Sometimes the similes “sang” but other times they felt forced and even “show-off”, and held up the story. The ending felt satisfying and even the many loose ends felt like real life. So overall Im recommending it to friends – but I think some wont make it to the end because of the language and probably the moth cows (which I grew to like after an initial – “what-is-this-about”?)

  52. Oh so sad–I have carefully read all comments and enjoyed them enormously while knowing that this is a book I have no desire to read at all. I hoped my mind would be changed but no…While this could happen quite a bit with this book club I think the idea of choosing books that have not been read is a very good one and encouraging for first time writers probably. It must be hard to come up with unread books among such a lovely little group of book-omnivores!

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  54. sandpiper

    Very late with my homework – just haven’t had much time for reading of late.

    First of all, I have to say I *adored* the moth-winged cattle, but was very disappointed that they never really seemed to have a proper role in the story. I kept waiting for some kind of revelation, but no…

    I liked Midas. I suppose part of that is because I am a photographer too. I was, however, horrified at his willingness to delete photos on camera before looking at them at home. However bad you think they are on the little screen, they might be OK when you look at them full size? That made me feel as though the author didn’t really know photography quite well enough.

    Denver & Gustav were great – they were the grounding, normal people, even though they too had been through tragedy. I just didn’t feel they featured enough in the story.

    Overall, I liked the book a lot, but could have loved it if it had just answered a few more questions which it asked. I felt particularly frustrated at the fact that Midas chucked away all his father’s stuff, including the book & the letter.

  55. I’ve just finished this! Better late than never… I don’t think I can read all the comments, but I enjoyed your thoughts in the main post, and will write a very, very brief response to the novel myself soon. I’m so glad you brought it to my attention, it was such a strange and somewhat beautiful book.

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  57. Pingback: The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist Giveaway: How To Be Both – Ali Smith | Savidge Reads

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