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The Red Shoe

3.13  ·  Rating Details ·  386 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Funny, tough-minded and tender, this is the story of Matilda and her two sisters growing up in Sydney, Australia, in the early 1950s. Their father is mentally unstable and largely absent, their mother is possibly in the thrall of his brother, and a headline-making Russian spy defection is taking place next door. Punctuated by the headlines of the times, The Red Shoe depict ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Roaring Brook Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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Dec 24, 2009 Summer rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I feel like we in America are now so accustomed to a shiny, glossy, corporate edited McMansion of a novel with a tight plot and rip roaring action, that we can't appreciate anything unusual. We can't find the patience to sit with something entirely new that whispers instead of roars.

The Red Shoe is unusual, and I found it incredibly stirring. Yes, like other reviewers have said, definitely subtle, like an E.M. Forster novel. Forster was the master of subtlety. The Red Shoe reminds me
Oct 05, 2008 Muphyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Maybe people who don't mind reading a pointless story
I can't quite put my finger on what I disliked so much about this book. Probably a combination of a reader reading far too fast, nothing really happening until the end of CD 3 (almost the end of the book) and just being really, really boring. If this YA book is supposed to make young people read and get interested in Australian history, then I don't know...

It just seemed like a string of not very exciting, random events... "Today Mathilda's family went to the movies, the next day they went to th
Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
I can't believe that it takes me so long to getting to read some authors. Ursula Dubosarsky is a great discovery, and I am looking forward to reading more of her books. The Red Shoe is a clever exploration of an Australian childhood in the 1950s- 3 sisters growing up on the edge of Sydney- a story to show how the large events of the world can impact on ordinary lives. Beautifully written.

May 09, 2008 Krista rated it liked it
The story is told through the alternating point of view of three sisters: Matilda (6), Frances (11) and Elizabeth (15). The events of a mysterious neighbor "who looks like a spy" (according to Matilda) are recounted alongside flashbacks and hardships dealing with their father, a veteran of World War II, who suffers from post-traumatic stress and often leaves his family for lengths of time. The girls, who often experience related feelings of isolation and misunderstanding, live in a rundown home ...more
I'm having a hard time putting my finger on a plot in this book. The setting is Australia post World War II and throughout the text are actual news headlines and stories about the events of the time. The newspaper clippings interested me and was why I read the book in the first place. The sad thing is, and maybe it's because I'm not Australian, but they actually added very little to the story for me. They were interesting in their own right, but almost distracting from the story.

You get a sense
Gemma Wiseman
The scattered debris of post war worlds is all here. The headlines of the day cut into the home lives. Disturbingly, perspectives of home mirror the crises on larger scales. This is not a novel based on a traditional, linear narrative sequence. It is like mini memoirs co-existing spiced with flashbacks; mainly the memoirs of children growing up in a world they barely understand. The effect is mesmerising; a sense of sadness grappling with the right to find some kind of happiness - with a little ...more
Ashleigh Mathes
I finished this book earlier today and I'm still not fully sure as of what it is actually about. It's a good piece of writing, but I found it a struggle to lose myself in this book. And I still can't make sense of the plot.
I really wanted to like it and it started out really good, but it left me feeling disappointed in the end.
Dec 26, 2013 Kelli rated it really liked it
I liked this book. I think the narration is really clever - you mostly see the story through the POV of the youngest sister, Matilda, but the occasional glimpses of perspective from other characters was elegantly done. I thought it might be an 'each chapter the perspective changes' story, but the perspective changes were more clever than that and Matilda remained the focus.

I've read some reviews here criticising the book for not having a story or plot. I did not find this a problem. The thing is
Rogue Wilson
Feb 22, 2013 Rogue Wilson rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful coming of age story from Ursula Dubosarsky. A short novel at only 181 pages, she manages to delicately weave a tale that kept me on tender hooks from the first chapter...strangely the retelling of a grim Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. A mesmerizing story told from the perspective of the three central characters - 15, 11 and 6 year old sisters. The intertwining of real clippings from the Sydney Morning Herald from April 1954 it worked well and the story came together perfec ...more
Aug 25, 2009 Ksboydie rated it really liked it
A very subtle and interesting story about three girls and their dysfunctional family. It is set during the time of the Petrov affair, when communist spies were receiving a lot of media focus. The father is a war veteran and tries to hang himself. I really loved the character of Matilda; she is curious and imaginative. Although I enjoyed this book I don't know that it would appeal to students. As I said, it is very subtle.
Yuck. Good thing this was a short one that I read in about an hour and a half. The plot was hard to find, and the author didn't seem comfortable switching between the three daughter's perspectives and voices. A little bit of intrigue when you realize the father tried for suicide - but that doesn't happen until page 125, and by then you are BORED. Do not waste your time on this one.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jun 27, 2014 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-1001

Matilda’s dad isn’t functioning well since he has returned from the war, Matilda’s mom is spending lots of time with an uncle, and what is going on next door? This little story, set in 1950’s Australia, shares a time of anxiety, both personal and societal. Beautiful writing.

3 stars. Well written but I'm not sure I enjoyed the themes. It just made me a bit sad. ...more
Ava Carollo
Feb 23, 2014 Ava Carollo rated it really liked it
I read the book The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky. I enjoyed this book because it made me think about what life was like in war times and I saw how a war effected families.

In the story, the author's attitude toward the characters shows the family's grief toward the war. But the grief is different for each character. The mother is grieving because of what happen at the Basin and she is nervous because he is mentally unstable. While the children are grieving about there fathers absents. All of the
Jul 30, 2014 Kaykay rated it did not like it
This book started off promising. I had heard some negative reviews from friends, but as I started reading, it was alright. Needless to say, it got worse.

The ending felt like a work-in-progress that got too long and just had to be ended with a quick-fix, even if it didn't make that much sense.

I liked the difference between the three sisters, but they seemed stereotypical. Elizabeth was older and enjoyed intellectually challenging activities and cultured movies like "Roman Holiday". Frances was
Oct 22, 2014 Chantal rated it liked it
As many of you may know, the Cold War was a time of tension and hostility between the Communists and non-Communist countries (Western bloc and Eastern bloc) . The dates of when this war started are actually still unsure. While most historians traces the Cold War’s beginning to the end of World War II, others state its origin was closer to the years following World War I.

The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky takes place in Sydney, Australia, April 1954 ( during the Cold War), at a time of a famous po
Aug 14, 2016 rosamund rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disability, childrens
After enjoying "The Golden Day", I was curious to read more of Dubosarsky's work, and I wasn't disappointed. What makes this story for me is the voice of Matilda, the main child character. She is only six, and I think Dubosarsky does an amazing job of evoking a child's logic, her understanding of the world, and the things that are of great importance to her. A ring of spies can seem just as important as winning a pet competition, and Dubosarsky describes both with great intelligence. I really li ...more
Alison Giles
Sep 09, 2016 Alison Giles rated it really liked it
Gorgeous. Loved it. Really enjoy Ursula's intelligent writing with those subtle nuances of character quirks. Didn't much enjoy the newspaper snippets but they could have been an editing idea rather than the authors. I was really hoping that the story included the Petrov affair in more depth, but not so. The narrative around Matilda's parents I did enjoy. Matilda was such a likeable character. I saw myself in her so easily and this glued me to the story. But Ursula is such a delicious writer. Lov ...more
Sep 02, 2015 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted on:> http://lauraslittlebookblog.blogspot....

I firstly apologise for the shortness of this review, but unfortunately this read wasn't for me.
The Red Shoe tells the story of three sisters living in Sydney in the 1950's against the backdrop of the Cold War, the threat of the H-Bomb, the unrest in China and a high profile case of the KGB defector Vladimir Petrov. Told in the viewpoint of six year old Matilda, we see these things through a child's eyes.

I do understand what the a
May 02, 2010 Caren rated it liked it
Shelves: children
I found this book quite by chance, inexplicably with our juvenile chapter books, although to my mind the mature content makes it more of a teen novel. The action takes place in Sydney, Australia in the early 1950s, the Cold War era. Three sisters tell the tale, but the focus is on the youngest, a six-year-old (perhaps the reason the book was considered a juvenile read). Their father, who is often absent on military duty, had emotional problems as a result of his service in World War II. His brot ...more
Jan 24, 2015 Ash rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The story was not enticing. Although the writing was clear, the story line was long and tedious. So many characters were underdeveloped such as Uncle Paul, Matilda's father, the old man across te street and, finally Matilda's mother's. There were so many newspaper clippings about the Russian spies but none of them led to a conclusive storyline. While reading this book, I had a feeling of watching multiple people walking in one big maze. Yes, they are in a maze but are never really mindful of eac ...more
Oct 28, 2007 Jess rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of thoughtful YA
I really really wanted to really like this. How's that for an articulate sentence? It has that slightly hazy childhood quality to it, with a slightly Zilpha Keatley Snyder feel, where some of the essence of the child's worldview is captured. Plus there's a Russian diplomat in hiding, some slightly surprised family baggage, a variety of allusions to the Andersen story, and...well, it didn't quite do it for me. I would be really curious to see a child's reaction to it. The perspective shifts betwe ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Isabelle rated it did not like it
I for one, didn’t really like this book. The story went way to slow for my liking and all the events of the book built up to a very anticlimactic ending. It told the story of a naive girl and the mundane events of her everyday life with only flashbacks to break everything up, unfortunately it was the flashbacks and the flashbacks alone that kept me interested. Throughout the book it hinted at the ending as the memories got more and more longer, confusing and intriguing me at the same time. What ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Mary-Beth rated it liked it
I read this very quickly this afternoon and the narrator was entrancingly convincing as a young child. I think this is much closer to the consciousness of a child than I have seen in literature for a long while. Every tiny daily detail is filled with significance and Matilda senses things that she can only half explain. She is much more observant and much smarter than the adults around her might like.

Her other two sisters are narrators as well, but they don't register as much interest as Matilda
Aug 18, 2015 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was a strange read. It was quite nicely written, and if you took the book at face value, it seemed almost ordinary. However there were some small links and references made to much deeper things, and having discussed it in class, I learnt a lot more about the underlying issues in the family and the neighbours too. By the end of our discussion, I felt very blind sided by the book, now understanding the full length of their troubles. I now hate Uncle Paul, and was scared for a while that the end ...more
Apr 23, 2015 Chelsea rated it it was ok
Depressing read from children's points of view. I guess it was supposed to be realistic, but mostly it was just hard to read, because I felt so bad for the family. The girls witnessed a terrible thing, and no one knew so no one helped them. And there was no indication that anything would change, even at the end of the book. I don't mind sad/realistic books if there is a moral to the story or light at the end of the tunnel. It's no fun to read something that is depressing from beginning to end. T ...more
Kathy Lane
Nov 06, 2011 Kathy Lane rated it it was ok
The Red Shoe takes place in Australia and chronicles the real life story of a Russian defector hiding duing the Cold War. The story is told through three sisters, but mostly through Matilda who wants to be a spy when she grows up. I think the author has a neat writing style, though much of the story has little to do with the plot. This is a solid tale, though I don't think it has much appeal for teens with its young characters and somewhat obscure subject. (Kip)

Too obscure, but newspaper excerpt
Aug 25, 2011 Ann rated it liked it
This is an odd book that is at its best when probing the perspectives of three sisters in Sydney, Australia during the Cold War. There are moments when Dubosarsky nails what a six-, eleven- or fifteen-year-old might feel when confronted with a shell-shocked father who hasn’t recovered from the war or the presence next door of a defecting Russian diplomat. For me, the author’s initial use of the old “Red Shoes” story was strained and unnecessary. And the use of actual newspaper articles from the ...more
Jul 18, 2014 Josie rated it did not like it
I really didn't like the ending of this book. The ending for one of the characters doesn't even make sense. The book felt like a string of events and didn't flow well. The Flashbacks were the only things that broke up the boring everyday life. France's story line could have been explored more and added to. France should also have some trauma from 'the incident'.

The news paper clippings were an interesting addition that I don't see in many books and I felt it added to the plot. If they were left
Alex Fairhill
Set in 1950s Sydney, this book follows a family in a post-war coastal town. Newspaper excerpts are woven into the narrative, which is told from the point of view of the three sisters, Elizabeth, Frances and Matilda. Six-year-old Matilda is the strongest voice, and Duborsarky has nailed the tone of a girl of that age. Themes include mental health, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder, and looks at how big events - in this case the defection of Russian diplomat Petrov - can impact on the li ...more
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Ursula Dubosarsky is an award-winning author of numerous books for children and young adults. About The Golden Day, her first book with Candlewick Press, she says, "The little girls watch, wonder, respond, change, and grow — and then their childhood is gone, forever. This element of the story, I suppose, is at least partly autobiographical. But, as I say — all of our teachers come home safe and so ...more
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