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THE PAPERBARK SHOE by Goldie Goldbloom


by Goldie Goldbloom

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-67450-2
Publisher: Picador

An albino woman suffers with her desperate need for intimacy in the wilds of World War II-era Australia.

This debut novel, which marries unmistakable writing talent, a rare narrator and a garishly vivid story, was originally published in Goldbloom’s homeland of Australia and had a small press run in the United States as Toads' Museum of Freaks and Wonders (2010). Its narrator’s testimony is tainted by her deep-seated desires and her altered perception of her equally bizarre husband. Gin Boyle Toad is 30, an albino pianist who was sequestered in an asylum before she was “rescued” by marriage. Her husband, the eponymous Toad, is a holy terror, a five-foot ball of mean that keeps a collection of women’s corsetry in the shed and hides every hint of affection from his desperately lonely bride. The story is set in the midst of WWII, when 18,000 Italian prisoners of war were sent to Australia to work on isolated farms like the one that serves as Gin’s new prison. A pair is sent to work Toad’s westernmost farm, the more subtle John and the exotic Antonio, who inspires uncomfortable and unfamiliar feelings in Gin. This tense stew of feeling becomes more heated when Gin secretively spies on John and her husband exploring long-buried feelings on Toad’s part. Gin’s disappointment and confusion are palpable. “It wasn’t good, what Toad and I had, but at least we were in it together, yoked together like mismatched beasts pulling a plough,” Goldbloom writes. “But his beautiful boy has come between us now and gnawed through Toad’s traces. I can’t pull this plough by myself. I resent seeing him frolic while I stand here, abandoned in the field, tied to a burden I never wanted.”

A simmering, colorful story about castaways and the deviance they inspire.