Sixpence In Her Shoe
This novel opens in working class Leeds in the 1920s. Jessica Price, the central character, comes from a Catholic family whose father makes his living from mending shoes. Her love of fairy-tales draws her close to her gifted adopted cousin, Wilf. His talent as a sculptor and artist leads him to study in London, while Jessica finds her loyal spirit leads her to rescue her godchild, Leila, from the orphanage. It also carries her away from Wilf, and her own close family to face a series of challenges on the shores of MorecambeBay.
From the outset of the novel the author captures a sense of place and the flavour of the region. In particular, the evocative descriptions of Morecambe Bay, the life of a tenant farmer, who combined farming with cockle picking, and the bleakness of the barrack-like Leeds Poor Children’s Holiday Camp. Even the minor characters like Gladys Hardy with her love of jigsaw puzzles and the Dickensian Mr and Mrs Treasure, with their peculiar obsession, create a vivid and lasting impression.
This novel is engrossing, easy to read and as satisfying as an excellent meal. Historically, it is intriguing because it sheds light on the working life of a ‘cobbler’ and of the shoe industry at that period. However, its special charm lies in the poetic quality of the writing which complements the fairy-tales that provide solace to Jessica and add magic to her own life.