The Ruby Slippers by Kier Alexander
|The Ruby Slippers by Kier Alexander|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Jones|
|Summary: An old bag-lady hides a pair of ruby slippers in her squalid apartment. But will their discovery bring joy or pain to those who find them?|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 432||Date: March 2014|
She stinks....it’s a stench, a pestilence that violates the space she enters and damns the air where she has been. The rest of her spells death, too: the funeral-dark clothes...the dry knot of hair...the skinny marbled wrists sticking out of her black shell, making her look like some great wounded bug dragging itself away somewhere to die.
With these damning words, we are introduced to Rosa, a stinking, silent bag lady who spends her days shuffling around New York City, largely ignored and shunned by all except for her faithful dog, who ambles along beside her and her grocer nephew Marcus, who tries his best to help her out of sheer pity for her wretched condition. But Rosa has a secret: hidden in her squalid apartment lies a golden hatbox containing a Hollywood icon; a pair of original ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz set.
When Rosa is involved in an accident and ends up in a coma, her nephew visits her apartment and discovers the box, unleashing a bizarre chain of events that will forever bind an eclectic cast of characters including a knife-wielding teenager, a bitter millionaire, a grieving librarian, a girl searching for her father and of course, Judy Garland herself. The book cleverly introduces us to each of the characters individually, before linking and weaving their stories together in all sorts of unexpected ways. Half of the fun of reading the book is trying to anticipate in advance how each character relates to the others before it is revealed in the narrative. At the very heart of the book we have Rosa’s own story, her tragic descent from a beautiful vivacious Latvian teenager to a maligned, fetid outcast wandering the streets.
I must admit that this book cause no end of internal conflict in me as I read it. I couldn’t decide whether I loved it or hated it. Certain parts of the book were so beautifully written, the descriptive prose seemed to be an art form in itself, a true pleasure to read. On the other hand, the book took an incredibly long time to get into. I almost gave up at about seventy pages in, but I persevered and was rewarded for my efforts. Likewise the book took an incredibly long time to conclude, including the addition of a stultifying chapter retelling the whole story from the viewpoint of a three year old. My advice? Tear out the first and last 80 pages and you will find that what is left is a pretty engaging read.
I had the same internal conflict with the characters. Some of them were drawn absolutely perfectly, the best example being vulnerable street-kid Harrison, a bad boy who wants to be good but doesn’t know how. He is such a multi-layered character and has such depth, that the passages in which he appears are utterly absorbing. In contrast, certain other characters were awful, shallow stereotypes, like the wheelchair-bound millionaire who constantly hurls abuse at everyone and the sinister gay librarian who is obsessed with Judy Garland. These characters just didn’t work for me. In fact, they made me cringe.
I have seen this book described as a 'Marmite' book and I would have to agree. It gets a lot of things right, but it gets too many things wrong. However, Kier Alexander has a wonderfully poetic writing style and I am sure that we will see great things from him in the future.
For those searching for a fairytale in New York, The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar is a fantasy book that may fit the bill nicely.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Ruby Slippers by Kier Alexander at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Ruby Slippers by Kier Alexander at Amazon.com.
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