Monday, 17 May 2010

The Shoe Queen by Anna Davis

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Society beauty Genevieve parties every night with the bohemian artists of Montparnasse and longs to be taken seriously for her poetry. She has an amazingly rich and indulgent husband, a fabulous apartment and huge hole in her life which she fills with her extravagant shoe collection. When she sees a rival wearing the most amazing pair of shoes, Genevieve has to have a pair by the same designer.  However, Paolo Zachari, although renowned for his exquisite and eye-wateringly expensive shoes is more famous for his eccentric insistence on ruthlessly selecting his clients, Zachari's footwear is definitely exclusive!  Genevieve becomes obsessed with the shoes and their designer and begins an affair that makes her question her life and the circumstances that lead her to Paris.
I found this interesting, but strangely a strangely empty experience overall.  The detail of 1920's Paris, including the fashions and lifestyle of the debauched artistes is fascinating and Lulu of Montparnasse could fill another book by herself.  It's a blend of luxury and seediness, glamour and TB, a place where shallowness and self indulgence reign...and that's probably why it didn't completely take me over.  I found Genevieve, despite the revelations about her younger self to be an unsympathetic character, I really couldn't find anything to like about her and sadly, all the female characters were similarly hardened, self seeking and ultimately rather pathetic.  For me it was all a bit Moulin Rouge-ish (and yes, I know I'm about 25 years out with the setting) but without the humour!
It is beautifully and cleverly written and I appreciate the research involved to create the atmosphere, but was left feeling a bit disappointed.