The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

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The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: You might think that you're taking your pleasures a little too saddly when I tell you that this book explores what it's like to lose a child and to feel that it was your fault, but put that to one side: it's a good read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352/10 hbours Date: May 2018
Publisher: Two Roads
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473668997

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Masha's son Gabriel died some years ago. She'd been a single parent with help from her friend, Edward, who had grieved as much as Masha and whilst Edward has moved on (his boyfriend moved out in the immediate aftermath of the drowning, but there's now a new love interest) Masha is still stricken, feeling that it would somehow be disloyal to Gabriel if she was to be happy. An independent, rebellious woman has somehow been diminished.

Alice, on the other hand, is reasonably happy until she discovers the lump on her breast and then her worry is about her teenage son, Matthew. She's a single parent too and there's no one to turn to.

Masha seeks solace in the local Victorian cemetery, talking through her problems at the sides of graves, and by swimming in the local lido. She likes to spend time under water - it's quieter there - and it's hard to escape the conclusion that she wouldn't be entirely averse to drowning, as Gabriel did, twelve years ago. She's saved though by two remarkable women: Kitty Muriel, a septuagenarian roller disco aficionado who attended a convent and then married a magician - and the titular Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with an amazing voice who feeds the crows in the cemetery. Their wisdom and insight - and the support of her friends - will help her to feel that she can live again and that it would be what Gabriel would have wanted. Then there's the man she calls The Olympian.

We first met Ruth Hogan when her debut novel, The Keeper of Lost Things was published in January 2017. Hogan drew on her own experience of cancer in that novel and it reappears in The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, but doesn't take centre stage. The starring role goes to the grief which parents endure when they lose a child and it's dealt with very sensitively. I felt for Masha as we gradually learned about her story and how she'd struggled in the intervening years.

You'll find out quite a bit about cemeteries: not too much, but you're likely to be a great deal wiser at the end of the book. I liked too Hogan's approach to death, as voiced by Masha. The F word is part of common language, but the majority of people are unable to say that someone is dead and will resort to any euphemism to avoid the word. I laughed out loud and that's the other secret of The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes: thorny issues are explored with a sensitive humour which takes nothing away from what people are feeling.

The denouement is telegraphed well in advance: I guessed what was going to happen fairly early on, unlikely as it the ending might seem, but it took nothing away from what was a good read and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

I don't often indulge in the luxury of going back and reading earlier books, but I think that I might pick up The Keeper of Lost Things. You might enjoy The Ruby Slippers by Kier Alexander but we had our reservations.

Buy The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan at Amazon You could get a free audio download of The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
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Buy The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan at Amazon.com.

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