A review of ‘The mountain in my shoe’ by Louise Beech
In other hands, this book would be a disaster. It would be a gritty and depressing read slipping into the grey mists rolling off the Humber. In the hands of a tabloid writer it would be full of wasted kids, bad mothers, faceless social workers, tarts and a string of foster homes. In Louise Beech’s hands it becomes something else entirely. It becomes a narrative of exquisite intricacy where tension and tenderness are stretched like an Aeolian harp across that same river. Plot then plays across those strings with a haunting melody which keeps you listening and listening.
In some ways, Louise’s fiction reminds me of a Brueghel painting – a canvas inhabited by all sorts of people who are somehow connected. The difference, however, is in the sympathy with which they are portrayed. Sometimes there seems to be a cruelty to Brueghel’s work which is entirely absent from Louise’s. Look hard in these pages, but you will not find a single two-dimensional character. Each is shown in a warm light which appreciates their humanity.
Other times Louise’s work seems more like tapestry than fiction. Her characters stand out from the page, like those embroidered onto a tapestry. Like the seamstress behind the tapestry, she has worked hard to put those characters in place. Every word-stitch has made them more vivid, believable and engaging.
I feel I should apologise for the picture below. A book cover should never be shot against such a ‘busy’ background. In this case, however, the ‘busyness’ is just the point. In a world of tabloid-ized cliché and lazy stereotyping this book stands out. Not only that, but I have every reason to believe that it will do some good for those who find themselves serving in a social-care system more often vilified than appreciated.
Thank you, Louise.