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The Paperbark Shoe Paperback – March 29, 2011
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“I have never read anything quite like this, nor has anyone else. . . . The voice is acid, funny, at first commonsensical and un-self-pitying, later lyrical, later madly deluded. . . . Brilliant.” ―Andrea Barrett, author of The Air We Breathe
“What an astonishing book this is! It's hard to believe The Paperbark Shoe is Goldie Goldbloom's first novel--because she has the audaciousness, the wildly inventive language, and the historical mastery of--well, it would be hard to think of any one writer she resembles.” ―Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After
“The Paperbark Shoe is a strange, mesmerizing tale about characters uncomfortably defined by superficial eccentricities. It is also a wrenching love story.” ―Joanna Scott, author of Follow Me
“Extraordinary . . . one of the most original Australian novels I've read in a long time.” ―The Sydney Morning Herald
“An assured debut written in beautifully precise language.” ―The Age (Australia)
About the Author
GOLDIE GOLDBLOOM's fiction has appeared in StoryQuarterly, Narrative, and Prairie Schooner. Her stories have been translated into more than ten languages. She lives in Chicago with her eight children.
Top Customer Reviews
I won't go into details about the "plot" of the book, both because other reviewers have already covered that territory and because in my view the plot is perhaps the least important of the many things that make this book so good.
One of those things is that Goldbloom succeeds in putting us inside the head of her main character. I'm not really sure how she has managed to do this, but I think it has something to do with...honesty? Vulnerability? Self-revelation? The tale's narrator is not an entirely sympathetic character (to be diplomatic about it), though she comes by her foibles honestly. An upbringing juxtaposing material comfort with a scarcity of love and acceptance has left Gin Boyle jaded, perhaps somewhat bitter, and certainly possessed of a caustically acerbic wit. This too makes for delightful reading and no doubt exerts some of the seemingly magnetic pull of the book. I found myself progressively drawn into the small world of Wyalketcham, Australia, until by the last 20 or 30 pages of the book I could not wait to get back to it each time I had put it down.
Goldbloom is a talented writer, and although I wouldn't quite characterize her writing as lyrical--there's really very little lyricism in this gritty tale--she certainly understands rhythm and cadence and weaves a marvelous spell. The book is also broken up into chapters, and longer chapters are broken into sections, making this an especially user-friendly book for busy readers on the go.Read more ›
Gin and Toad live on a remote farm in Western Australia. Their hard lives are made more difficult by the shortages created by World War II. Toad is ugly, coarse, uncommunicative, lacking education and refinement, yet he is fundamentally decent, possessed of a hidden depth and secrets that, like Gin's, are deeply buried. Both characters are isolated not just in their location but in their personalities. Both yearn for something they cannot have and dare not dream about.
Gin's stultifying life is transformed by two Italian prisoners of war, placed in Toad's custody as farmhands. The boisterous nature of the Italians is in sharp contrast to the withdrawn silence and studied indifference that defined Toad before their arrival, and it is inevitable that one of them awakens urges in Gin that have long been buried. At one point in the novel the Italian Antonio has to remind Gin that he is a prisoner, but he seems less a prisoner than Gin, who is imprisoned by her appearance and her past, caged by the expectations and perceptions of others. Gin's albino eyes are nearly blind in bright sunlight, but her emotional blindness is a greater disability.Read more ›
Goldie Goldbloom's first novel has already won some awards and I can easily see why. THE PAPERBARK SHOE is one of the most unique - i.e. "different" - stories to come down the pike in many years, with its protagonist-narrator Gin (Hoyle) Toad, an albino woman (and classically trained pianist) who was discarded into an asylum by an abusive stepfather to be rescued from there by an ugly, physically and emotionally flawed outback sheepman and farmer, Agrippas Toad.
There are so many things about this strange and beautiful novel that appealed to me: its remote outback setting in the wheat belt of western Australia is only one. And if there were any justice in the literary world, this book would be the biggest Aussie bestseller since THE THORN BIRDS. (And I could certainly see it as a movie too. Meryl Streep would have been perfect as Gin Toad - the Streep of 20-30 years ago, that is.) The World War II time frame and the forbidden love element with the Italian POWs are other reasons this story is so compelling and un-put-downable. Oh, don't get me wrong; this is no Harlequin bodice-ripper. Quite the opposite - the grit, dirt, drought and sometime near-grinding poverty of Toad's place is real enough at times to make you want to go take a shower. There is kinky sex here too, hetero-, homo- and maybe even bisexual, but never presented in an offensive manner. No, Goldbloom manages to pull off these elements of the plot in such a way that you will probably feel only sympathy (if not empathy) for these twisted, emotionally scarred and often desperately unhappy people.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a mesmerising and magical story. Goldie's characters are captivating, and the story, mesmerising. Highly, highly recommend!Published 11 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is a beautiful and mesmerizing book. Reading it is like slipping inside the skin of one Gin Toad, an albino who accepts a marriage proposal from an abusive husband, moves to a... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jennifer A. Lawrence
Too often, we allow ourselves to believe that we must choose between the story OR innovative storytelling and, here, Goldbloom gives us both - "The Paperbark Shoe" is an... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Marina M.
This is, very simply put, an extraordinary book! The story has stayed and stayed with me....the characters are so strongly developed, I feel as if I've known them for years. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Debra Silvert
The characters are so quirky and flawed that only in the hands of a gifted writer do they become believable. I enjoyed being pulled into this mesmerizing and strange love story.Published 3 months ago by Anna
One of the blurbs says that this book is unlike any you've ever read. For once, I agree with the otherwise commonplace statement. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dr Agana
In this lush, lyrical novel, Goldbloom creates in Gin and Toad and the Italian POW indelible characters who have stayed with me long after I finished reading. Read morePublished 3 months ago by JELeary