2009 Fantasy Other Prizes

The Girl with Glass Feet – Ali Shaw

 Short Listed for Costa First Novel Award 2009

The Girl with Glass Feet was Simon’s choice for Not the TV Book Group (an online book group formed recentlyby several UK book bloggers).

The book is set on a strange island, packed with weird animals; the plot centring on a woman called Ida, who discovers that she is slowly turning to glass.

The only word I can use to describe this book is bizarre! I’m afraid that I didn’t really understand the point of this book and the implausibility just seemed to grate on me rather than entertain.

Ida’s toes have turned to glass and she notices that the glass is spreading up her feet, but we have no explanation as to why this is occurring. There is no wicked witch to hate, or cursed place to avoid – it has just happened and Ida seems to accept it. She has a relationship with a man called Midas, but their relationship lacked emotion and I found that I didn’t really care what happened to them. I felt distanced from all the characters, never really understanding what motivated them to do anything.

The book also contained ‘bull moths’ – tiny cows with wings. Why?!! I just didn’t understand. Cows are ugly, muddy things and miniaturising them doesn’t make them cute. I can’t imagine one flying and couldn’t understand why they were present in the book.

Overall I found this to be a very frustrating book. Little was explained or tied up nicely at the end – it was just one bizarre event after another. I prefer stories based in reality, or at least with enough detail to immerse yourself in the strange new world. 

Lots of other people enjoyed it though, so head over to Simon’s blog to read the fantastic discussion in the comments section.

Did you enjoy The Girl with Glass Feet?

Can you accept bizarre occurrences in books, or do you need a plausible explanation?


Theory of War – Joan Brady

Winner of the Whitbread Prize 1993

The Theory of War is story of a white child sold into slavery in post-Civil War America. At just four-years-old Jonathan is sold to Alvah Stokes, who treats him terribly. Alvah’s son George taunts Jonathan, and it is hatred for him that lasts throughout his lifetime, and leads to Jonathan tracking him down to seek revenge.

The Theory of War is based on the true story of the author’s grandfather. I actually found the author’s note at the end of the book one of the most interesting sections. In it she explains how four of her grandfather’s seven children (including her father) committed suicide. She blames their deaths on the emotional scarring of slavery, and wrote the book in an attempt to understand what he went through. It is this emotional attachment to the text that makes this such a good book.

The book switches between Jonathan’s difficult live as a slave, and the story of his grandaughter learning about what he went through for the first time. At just over 200 pages this isn’t very long, but there are a lot of strong messages contained in it; not only about the importance of compassion for everyone, but also discussions on disability and war.

A war between two people is not all that different from a war between two countries.

I loved the ending – I didn’t see it coming at all, and thought it gave a fitting finish to this book.

I have to admit that the book lost some of it’s momentum in the middle section. Jonathan’s life as an adult didn’t have as much appeal to me, and I thought the book could have benefited from concentrating on his experiences as a slave. This is only a minor complaint though, and think this is a deserving winner of the Whitbread prize.




NB. There is a lot of strong language in this book, which may offend some people.

I haven’t actively followed the Costa/Whitbread prize, although I have read and enjoyed a few, most notably The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman.

Do you enjoy reading Costa/Whitbread books?

If so, which has been your favourite?