If Ruth Hogan’s first book was a breath of fresh air, this one is a kiss-of-life.
Hogan navigates through difficult subjects with enormous sensitivity and what seems like plenty of direct personal experience. The title character, Sally Red Shoes, is painted with the bold strokes of an expressionist’s brush – she is a greater than life eccentric and at the same time a vulnerable old lady whom Masha, the heroine of the book, befriends and looks after. In fact, the looking-after is mutual, and the relationship between the two women is most endearing to the reader. Alice is the third character in this triangle of personal tragedies, secrets, crimes, redemption and survival. I simply couldn’t list all of the well intertwined themes of this beautiful book.
It is a deeply emotional book composed of three personal stories: Masha’s revival from the most excruciating tragedy of losing her child and her journey towards normality, Alice’s tight and claustrophobic world spinning out of her control, and the most enigmatic of the three: Sally and her unconventional past.
Each of the characters has a distinct voice. The story’s setting is a wonderfully portrayed old Victorian cemetery, rich with its own characters.
It’s a tender-loving book, touching and life-affirming.