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The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

Publisher:                     Two Roads

Date of Publication:    3rd May 2018

Date of Review:           13th July 2018


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 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 …

My Review

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is the second novel by Ruth Hogan. With the author’s first novel The Keeper of Lost Things being such a well-received and heart-warming narrative, could Ruth pull another successful ‘up-lit’ out of the bag. Read on to find out!

Nicknamed Masha after Chekov’s character in The Seagull, twelve years after her young son (Gabriel) drowned, the protagonist is still in mourning and unable to move on with her own life.  A frequent visitor to the cemetery, in particular the children’s section, Masha meets Sally Red Shoes a bag lady who goes to the cemetery to feed the birds, and the vivacious Kitty Muriel.  As the friendships develop and the events surrounding Gabriel’s death are unveiled, Masha realises she isn’t the only one with a tragic past.

Masha is also a regular visistor the local lido where she carries out regular ‘drowning sessions’ to punish herself, but with Sally and Kitty taking on the role of cupid maybe it’s time for Masha to put the past behind her and rebuild her life. But just as she starts to accept what happened in the past, her life is about to take her on a completely unexpected path.

Starting with an omniscient third-person narrative that introduces Sally Red Shoes, the novel continues with a multi-faceted perspective. Masha’s story is in first-person; this runs in tandem with Alice’s story which has a limited third-person point-of-view. Not only does this writing style showcase the author’s ability to write from a multitude of narrative perspectives, it also leaves the reader in no doubt as to whom the protagonist is.

Alice is a lonely single mother whose life revolves around her son, Mattie. Alice has had a tragic past with a history of miscarriage, still birth, and Mattie’s father leaving her. Her story appears to be quite separate from Masha’s but as the narrative strands converge the story really kicks up a gear and this is where I found myself turning the pages unable to put the book down.

Although this is a sad story and largely set in a cemetery, the theme of death is offset by the themes of friendship and making the most out of life. The narrative is also full of hilarious analogy and there are quite a few laugh out loud moments.

I would recommend this book for anybody who likes Kit de Waal or Emma Cooper.

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Under Literature Love’s rating scheme this book has been awarded 4 out of 5 stars.

I really enjoyed this book.

This book is highly recommended.

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for an Advance Review Copy of this book in return for an honest and unbiased review.


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