Book Review- The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

Thursday, 3 May 2018
Title: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes
Author: Ruth Hogan
Published: 3rd May 2018
Pages: 293
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Rating: 5/5


Masha is drowning.
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.
Until the fateful day when the past comes roaring back... -Goodreads

I received this novel from Net Galley and John Murray Press in return for an honest review.
I read Ruth Hogan’s debut novel The Keeper of Lost Things in 2017 and I absolutely loved it, so when I saw she had another novel published in May 2018 I couldn’t resist requesting it!
I loved Hogan’s writing style in her debut novel, and so I was particularly excited to experience more of her style, and she didn’t disappoint. Her writing style is beautifully expressive, and she has a stunning ability to write about sensitive and emotional subjects, and this novel is another perfect example of these features.
There are 2 narrative threads that run through this novel. The main narrative thread concerns Masha, who is struggling to cope with her grief, and spends a lot of her time in a Victorian cemetery. However, when she meets 2 individuals, they help her to see that by living her life a different way she could allow her grief space to exist, while still being able to live without being smothered by it, and someday be able to enjoy life again. The second narrative follows Alice, who is struggling with her own demons, and trying to look after her teenage son.
These 2 narrative threads run simultaneously, but they only become clearly linked in the last 30 pages of the novel. I really didn’t see this link coming, and I really enjoyed experiencing the shock of seeing the two threads come together. These two narratives also tie the whole novel up very neatly, which gave the novel a very satisfying ending overall.
I very much enjoyed Hogan’s characters in her first novel, and she continues this trend in this novel. She is very talented at writing fully fleshed and developed characters who are three dimensional and lifelike. I particularly enjoy the eccentric and unusual characters she writes, who are unique and quirky, but very endearing and easy to support and emphasise with. Masha’s group of friends are such an amazing, eclectic group to read about, they were all fabulous, and I completely fell in love with all the characters! Despite the sombre and at times dark mood of this novel, the characters made this novel a complete pleasure to read, they were the light in the novel that kept things from getting too dark.
I personally preferred Masha’s storyline to Alice’s. Although Masha’s on the surface dealt with the darker and more intense storyline, there was a constant undercurrent of hope through her story, and I always felt that things could and would get better for her. Whereas, Alice’s storyline, although on the surface appearing the more positive had a strong undercurrent of negativity and darkness, and I always had a strong sense of foreboding when I was reading it.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. I loved Hogan’s first novel, and after reading her follow up, she is fast becoming one of my favourite contemporary authors!

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