The Shoe Queen

Written by Anna Davis
Review by Gwen Sly

In Art Deco 1920s Paris when it was a second home to the Americans, the City of Lights was a cheap place to live and decadently Bohemian.

The ‘Queen’ of the title is Genevieve, the Honourable Genevieve Shelby King of Suffolk, married to a wealthy sewing machine manufacturer who really should return to Boston USA. In her fashionable apartment on the Rue de Lota is a room filled with hundreds of boxes of shoes: worn, new, covered in sequins, ribbons, buttons and diamonds, with glass heels, gold heels, low heels and four-inch heels. She, however, becomes obsessed with having a pair of shoes made by Paolo Zachari, the creator of the world’s most expensive footwear, and her desire for the initially unobtainable shoes becomes a passion for the shoemaker. The vicissitudes of the brief love affair make her face up to the hollowness of the life she leads on the fringes of Montparnasse café society.

Anna Davis has an excellent knowledge of Paris and does not put a foot wrong on her heroine’s perambulations but, it is a city rooted in the present. There is no real sense of the twenties, those hectic and crazy days of jazz, literature, modern art and drinking. It is a frothy book with no great depth and the characters are stereotyped. Simply dropping famous names from the past into the text does not make an historical novel.