2 January 2007

BOLGER, Dermot - Emily's Shoes

Viking 1992

Read December 2006

The book seems one of many which are set against the background of the socio-economic revolution in Ireland. The childhood is set in parochial poverty-stricken Catholic Ireland, while the adulthood takes place amidst the trapping of 1990s bourgeois Dublin.

There is certainly the air of ‘L’Entrager’ in this book featuring an isolated and alienated individual, who lost his father in infancy and cares little when his mother dies when he is on the verge of becoming a teenager. The key driving force of his personality is his predilection for wearing women’s shoes, which he first experiences when, after his mother’s death, he is shipped to Aunt Emily in 1970s Birmingham for the summer. His marginalised existence is reinforced when he resumes a relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Maggie, who turns out to seriously mentally ill and finally needs hospitalisation in an insane asylum.

Alone but safe in his well-remunerated job as a library manager, he is haunted by his ‘perversion.’ Yet, though, the reader can understand his isolation and inability to build human contact, it is hard to believe that his shoe fetish is as problematic as he makes out. One almost feels like asking, ‘Well, so what!’ In a crazy scene at the end, involving throwing shoes over cliffs, the protagonist finally agrees to settle down with a single mother whose sanity is very much left in doubt.

In all this is a well-written and engaging book.

December 2006


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