Title: The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes
Author: Ruth Hogan
Published: May 3rd 2018
Publisher: Two Roads for Hodder & Stoughton
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
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 a future, the past comes roaring back …
In the vein of her bestselling debut The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan’s second novel introduces a new cast of wonderful character,s both ordinary and charmingly eccentric, who guide us through a moving exploration of the simple human connections that make life worth living.
Inevitably readers will want to make comparisons to The Keeper of Lost Things, the first highly acclaimed novel by writer Ruth Hogan. I missed it myself, so I am a newcomer to Ruth Hogan’s writing. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is an introspective book that serves up a study of grief, sadness and loss, with moments of joy. Despite the melancholy main subject matter, it is utlimately an uplifting tale.
A highly original tale of the friendships we forge in the most unlikely of times, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes tells the story of Masha. We learn the current sad state Masha is in now is not what her life used to be. In fact, Masha was a woman who lived her life to the fullest, she was happy, spirited and highly independent. But then, over twelve years ago now, a terrible accident changed her life, turning it upside down, so Masha no longer has a reason to live. Grief seems to consume Masha and in an effort to make it through each day, Masha finds a sense of calm from her local cemetery and the nearby lido. It is the fateful encounter between two women that changes Masha’s outlook one day. When Kitty Muriel, a charismatic seventy year old woman with some unusual pursuits and Sally Red Shoes, a woman who enjoys singing in the local cemetery team up with Masha, all sorts of interesting things start to happen. It takes these two spirited souls to bring Masha out the depths of her melancholy and in the process she learns to embrace life again.
I received a copy of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes via Two Roads Publishing, the same wonderful publishing company that introduced me to one of my favourite novels this year, The Cactus by Sarah Haywood. My expectations going into The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes were set quite high, especially after seeing how much of a book sensation Ruth Hogan’s debut novel, The Keeper of Lost Things proved to be with audiences across the globe. I really did enjoy The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, I found it a highly original and quirky novel, it was well written and managed to balance moments of darkness with sensitivity, as well as light humour.
Ruth Hogan is quite the storyteller and I have to say I appreciated her style of writing. The pace of this novel is rather gentle and wandering, but I was taken from the first page and my attention was sustained throughout. Hogan has a good command of the written word and she knows how to draw on certain narratives devices to capture the full attention of her reader. There are some mystery elements to this novel that I liked unpacking. I didn’t find The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes predictable, it kept me guessing and attentive throughout my reading experience. The use of different narrative voices, the first and third person, along with the employ of an extra narrator named Alice, adds extra layers to this tale, so it is not completely linear. I think readers will embrace this different style of writing.
I was expecting Sally Red Shoes, the book’s nominal character, to be the central focus of this novel, but I was pleasantly surprised with the direction Hogan took with this novel. Instead, we follow the lead, Masha, a woman suffering from a hurtful tragedy and unable to see the good things in life. By the insertion of characters such as Kitty Muriel, Masha’s life begins to open up. I watched on in delight as Masha experiences a revival of sorts to her spirit and the soul nourishing friendships of Kitty and Sally Red Shoes helps this character to heal. There are plenty of side characters that pad out the novel and add plenty of vibrancy to this tale.
Hogan explores some dark territory in her second novel, but do not let this put you off in any way, it is equalised by moments of joy. Hogan also injects plenty of light humour to add colour to this sometimes bleak tale of grief, loss and sadness following the loss of a dear loved one. Hogan’s exploration of death and grief is receptive, as well as enlightening. The experiences of the characters featured in The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes will make you laugh, cry and empathise with their predicaments. When Hogan travels to her conclusion, readers will find they are ready to see the protagonists featured in this resonating tale move on with the next chapter in their lives.
My closing word on The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes must be to express my adoration for the beautiful cover of this title. It is so aesthetically pleasing. I loved all the little symbols woven around the vine leaves of this cover. Each picture motif featured on the cover has an integral part to play in the proceedings of the novel. This is a front cover that helps set up the intriguing story that is to come. I’m off to read my copy of The Keeper of Lost Things (lucky I have a copy of hand), based on the fortunate experience I have had in reading Ruth Hogan’s second novel, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes.
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan was published on 3rd May 2018 by Two Roads via Hodder & Stoughton. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, Ruth Hogan, visit here.
*I wish to thank Two Roads/Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.