Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: The Silver Shoes by Jill G. Hall

Anne is an artist living in San Francisco whose work is starting to be recognized although she still works as a valet in order to make her rent each month. She has been in a bi-coastal relationship with boyfriend Sergio for a while now and she wants nothing more than for him to finally ask her to move to New York and live with him. He runs the family shoe manufacturing company, is sophisticated and charming, and tells Anne he loves her but is strangely reticent about asking her to move in with him and has certainly never mentioned marriage. On Anne's latest trip to New York, she sees a vintage pair of sparkly rhinestone dancing shoes in the window of a store and when they fit her large feet like a glove, she buys them. They and the other contents of the shoe box will become her muses as she decides what she wants and needs from Sergio and from the rest of her life.

Clair is a towering red-headed debutante in New York City just before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. She is the doted on only child of a wealthy father but she desperately wants a friend and a bigger life than the one she lives in her gilded cage. She finds that friend in Winnie, a salesgirl at Macy's who has grand ambitions to perform on stage. It is under Winnie's bubbly and gregarious wing that Clair acknowledges her own desire to break out and perform as well. The two girls secretly frequent a speakeasy and revue owned by Winnie's boyfriend and Clair gets a taste of the forbidden and of freedom. But Clair's father has plans for her, including marrying an odious older man Clair cannot stand and nothing Clair can do can seem to change his mind. And then Black Thursday happens and Clair must somehow hold her fragile little family together.

The story switches back and forth between Anne in the present day and Clair in 1929. As is common with dual narratives, one is stronger than the other, in this case, Clair's story is far more fascinating than Anne's. Neither main character seems in charge of her own destiny though. As Anne goes through her days, including during a trip back to Michigan with Sergio to see her family and then a trip to Italy to meet his Nonna, she is constantly focused on having a conversation with him about her moving to New York and her desire to get married, noting over and over again that because of situations or reasons, there will be no discussion that day or night. As for Clair, her own lack of power is slightly more understandable given the time in which she lives but she is willing to obey her father so far as to even marry a man who repulses her despite having a beloved aunt or her friend Winnie to escape to. Such frustrating passivity in both of them! The historical details, besides descriptions of Clair and Winnie's clothes, take a backseat to the personal but every now and then there's a nice touch to remind the reader where we are, such as the a-oo-gah of the car horns. There are things that ground Anne's story in the present too, like mentioning how many likes a Facebook post got, Sergio's man bun, Anne's Michigan Trumpster relatives, and referencing a scene from The Big Bang Theory (although she calls Sheldon Sherman) but these feel gratuitous and out of place, jarring rather than organic.  Anne feels very single minded about the topic of her relationship throughout the majority of the novel, only recognizing her truth in the very end.  Clair and her father act unbelievably out of character in key instances to change the direction of the historical portion of the story, Clair in her encounter with Mr. X and her father in his easy acquiescence to her eventual performance and the connection between the two women, through the silver sparkly shoes ends up being incredibly tenuous.  The secret revealed in Clair's story comes out of left field as well, flashing into the narrative and then out again, having ultimately changed little.  Over all this was a light but quick read and although I thought there were some problems in the execution and didn't connect with it the way I had hoped, others seem to have no such qualms so you may want to search this out and make up your own mind.

For more information about Jill G. Hall and the book, check out her webpage, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and She Writes Press for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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