The Shoe Queen by Anna Davies
|The Shoe Queen by Anna Davies|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A well-researched story about a society beauty obsessed by shoes - and a shoemaker. Nineteen-twenties Paris is brought to life vividly and the book is recommended.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: December 2007|
|Publisher: Black Swan|
Genevieve Shelby King wants to be a poet and she thinks that the literary scene in nineteen-twenties Paris is the place where she'll achieve her ambition. Her husband's money helps to get her accepted, but it's as a society beauty that she becomes well-known rather than as a writer. She's always beautifully dressed, but is obsessed by shoes and possesses hundreds of pairs.
When she saw a wonderful pair of shoes on the feet of her arch rival it was inevitable that she would be determined to have the same shoemaker design a pair just for her. She had married her husband because he could take her away from the oppressive family home - love was not involved on her side at least - so it was equally inevitable that her obsession with the shoemaker's shoes should extend to the shoemaker himself.
Unusually for fairly light women's fiction the author has gone to some considerable trouble to research the background to the story. Shoemaker Paolo Zachari is based on Pietro Yanturni who also had his customers walk about in front of him in their bare feet so that he could see how they moved. He too gave the women no say in what the shoes would look like or even what materials would be used. Other characters owe much to the real-life personalities of the age and as a result they're vivid and compelling, but perhaps the best is Genevieve's friend, Lulu. She's based on the legendary Kiki, lover of Man Ray and for me she stole the book.
Genevieve didn't gain much sympathy from me at first as she's a shallow madam incapable of learning from her own past, but I warmed to her as we learnt more of her history and finally came to have a grudging respect for her as she accepts responsibility for her actions.
I found the book a little slow in places but this did accentuate the inevitability of what was happening to Genevieve and by extension to her husband, Robert. I am being a little bit picky there though and overall this is a good story which brings to life the atmosphere of nineteen-twenties Paris. I probably won't read it again, but it was an excellent read on a cold, wet, wintery afternoon.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If the nineteen twenties interest you then you might also enjoy Searching for Tilly by Susan Sallis which is set in southern England. Lover's Hollow by Orna Ross looks at the political divide in the Irish Civil War whilst The Girl From World's End by Leah Fleming is set in the same period in the Yorkshire Dales. But if shoes are your passion then have a look at Clicking her Heels by Lucy Hepburn.
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