Review of The Red Shoe
Enter the world of three young sisters growing up in a sleepy coastal town in 1950s New South Wales, in a story told from the perspective of the youngest sister, Matilda. Her concerns are simple'she aspires to winning the Pet Parade at school, she pesters her sister Frances to read her fairytales, she waits for her father to return after long stints at sea and talks to her invisible friend, Floreal.
With a dreamlike style, Dubosarsky drops us into the mind of a girl young enough to wonder if there might be tiny people inside the radio and old enough to perceive the dark problems within her family and post-war Australia. Dubosarsky's writing achieves a fine balance between Matilda's innocent concerns and the outside threats that impinge on and at times envelope them. Newspaper clippings from the period appear throughout, adding to the ominous mood; the H-bomb, polio and Russian spies all threaten to disturb the sisters' quiet world.
Dubosarsky's ability to capture the lives and minds of her young characters is commendable. At the same time she has managed to use historical detail alongside a domestic narrative in order to carefully conjure a fearful gothic mood.
Anna Metcalf is a children's bookseller
Published in Junior Bookseller and Publisher on March 1, 2006.