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The Paperbark Shoe

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  352 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Winner of the 2008 AWP Award for the Novel

From 1941 to 1947, eighteen thousand Italian prisoners of war were sent to Australia. The Italian surrender that followed the downfall of Mussolini had created a novel circumstance: prisoners who theoretically were no longerenemies. Many of these exiles were sent to work on isolated farms, unguarded.

The Paperbark Shoe is the unforg
Paperback, 373 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Picador (first published September 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Feb 21, 2015 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not review this at the time of reading. Big mistake! This was a very unusual novel for me, I remember quietly thinking about the ending for a long time. An absolutely mismatched marriage, unrealised love in extremely hard times in Australia circa 1940. Very confronting reading but I remember being in awe of this author's writing. Another Aussie gem of a book again recommended by my dad. This really is a very good read, all characters strange and heartbreakingly unique, and a very interesti ...more
May 24, 2015 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marianne by: Suzanne
“The tin roof of the Italian’s hut flashed like a semaphore at the clouds scudding over the moon, smoky white clouds, fraying at the edges, with deep purple bellies”

The Paperbark Shoe is the first novel by West Australian-born novelist and short story writer, Goldie Goldbloom. It won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Fiction in 2008, and the Literary Novel of the Year from the ForeWord Magazine (Independent Publishers) in 2011. In 1943, Italian Prisoners of War were sent
Dec 07, 2010 Goldie rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Well, the cover is so great, I figured the insides must be pretty good too. I mean, that's my favourite shade of blue AND my grandparent's veranda furniture, so what's not to like? And the big plus for me was the size of the type. I can read it without my glasses on. I hear that the editor, Georgia, is the most lovely person too, and that the author thinks she's gorgeous. Thinks Georgia is gorgeous, not herself.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Goldie Goldbloom crafts some striking and original prose, which earned her the 2008 AWP Prize for this novel. She can also be wickedly funny at the most unexpected moments in the narrative. Those moments when her humor sneaks up on you are welcome refreshment in this mostly sorrowful story.

Simply put, this is a story of misfits, misfortunes, and misunderstandings. Gin and Agrippas Toad are misfits by birth, she an albino and he, well, a Toad. They're married to each other because they believe n
Dec 07, 2010 Goldie rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Well, I thought it was a decent read, and definitely fun while it lasted. Like many others, I wondered what happened to the characters later on in life. it'd be something to find out, eh?
Jan 30, 2011 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(That's four and a half stars.)

I first acquired this book in the middle of last year after it was hyped on (or some such) by someone with whom I went to grade school; a relation to the author. Had I known that it contained a corset collection AND flirtation lifted from the lines of La Bohème's libretto, I would not have waited so long between the purchase and the reading.

Like some other reviewers, I thought the title was an unusual score for America - when do book titles _ever_ bec
Timothy Bazzett
Feb 24, 2012 Timothy Bazzett rated it it was amazing
A freakish and wonderful book - simply top-notch in every way (May 24, 2011)

I'm not quite sure why I've been so lucky to get all these 5-star reads lately, but I'm sure not complaining. Hell, THE PAPERBARK SHOE is one of those books that would be a 10-star if there were one.

Goldie Goldbloom's first novel has already won some awards and I can easily see why. THE PAPERBARK SHOE is one of the most unique - i.e. "different" - stories to come down the pike in many years, with its protagonist-narrator
Apr 21, 2010 jordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I groped for words to describe "Toad’s Museum of Freaks and Wonders." Astounding. Original. Funny. Breathtaking. Engrossing. This was the best I could come up with: Goldie Goldbloom’s novel is simply the freshest most absorbing debut I’ve read in years.

Gin Toad’s life in the Australian outback is a mere existence. Years earlier, Mr. Toad’s proposal of marriage offered her only possible escape from the mental hospital in Perth where she had been confined by her family. Dwelling on he
Jun 08, 2011 Chris rated it it was amazing
This book was so strange, but in the best possible way. The first half of the book kept me interested but not terribly invested. The second half of the book just blew me away. I'm not exactly sure what to write in this review without including spoilers. I never read the published commentary on books (like on the back cover and whatnot) but after finishing this book, I was very curious as to what they would say. And since I can't think of anything to say, I will just regurgitate two of them that ...more
Apr 26, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazon-vine-book
I received the advanced reader's copy from the Vine program.

Why would a mother of eight children from Chicago write a novel abut Australia in the 1940's? I have no idea, but I am glad she did.

In her debut novel Goldbloom tells the story of Mr Toad, an odd looking misfit, who marries Gin Boyle, an albino classical pianist. Lonely for companionship on the remote Western Australian farm Mr. Toad sought out Gin after he heard her playing the piano. Tragedy besets the couple at every tur
Another "First Reads" win; another gem I likely wouldn't have picked up otherwise, given that it's not technically my normal fare; and another author whose future work I will certainly seek out.

"The Paperbark Shoe" is a the story of Gin Toad (née Boyle), an Australian albino woman just turned thirty. At the opening of the book, she has given birth to three children (one already deceased) with her dwarfish, decidedly uncouth husband Agrippas Toad (known throughout most of the book simply as "Toad
May 17, 2011 April rated it really liked it
THE PAPERBARK SHOE by Goldie Goldbloom is a unique historical fiction set in 1940's Australia.This this author's debut novel. The characters are complex but opaque.Toad,a farmer seeks out and marries Gin, an albino classical pianist.They are bullied by the townspeople.Gin.Tragedy strikes them.Toad and Gin are plagued with misunderstandings,an unhappy marriage with few if not rare words of kindness to each other.They have four children one of which dies at four years of age.When two Italian POW's ...more
Sonja Livingston
Goldie Goldbloom surprises and delights with her oddball characters, gritty landscape, and gorgeous prose. From the albino Gin whose piano playing and glory box finery are out of place in the wilds of Wyalkatchem (West Australia) to her corset-collecting husband, Toad, their dirty sweet children, the cruel-but-human townspeople, and finally, the gold-skinned Italian POWs who enter the scene and change everything. The landscape is harsh, the world is at war, and Goldbloom's writing reflects this. ...more
Suzanne Hall
Jul 14, 2012 Suzanne Hall rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book, incredible writing. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and historically educational. Gorgeous.

Read it. Soon.
Jan 20, 2016 Annaleise rated it really liked it
This novel was three things: very well written, utterly bizarre and unmistakably Australian.

I thoroughly enjoyed the gritty writing in this novel, and found the characters to be entirely unique to any other novel I've read. I found Gin's decent from intelligent, humorous and ascerbic, to the brink of insanity to be very compelling and somewhat unnerving. She makes a fascinating character.

Read this: if you liked Cloudstreet, but don't expect a similarly satisfying ending. There's an element of
The Paperbark Shoe is the debut novel of Goldie Goldbloom, and I’ve had it on my TBR since shortly after it was released in 2010. This was the blurb that enticed me to buy it:

This is the unforgettable story of the Toads of Cemetery Road. Theirs is a marriage of convenience: Gin to escape a mental institution, Toad to escape the censure of a country community. The arrival of two Italian POWs on their farm brings music, sensuality and a love that will fan the flames of small-town bigotry.

But other
Jun 11, 2011 Tami rated it liked it
One of the most strangest books I've ever read but very well written for a first time author.
I debated between a 2 and a 3 star. Such a well researched and very different book from any other I've ever read and I loved her descriptions but the premise was very sad.

I'm copying Tim Gepharts review because he sums up this book far more better than I can.

"Gin Boyle Toad and the book's other characters are prisoners, literally or metaphorically, and for reasons largely beyond their control. Born an a
Nancy Black
Apr 24, 2011 Nancy Black rated it liked it
I received my copy free to review from Picador publishing. When I started it I didn't know what to expect.

This novel is a insanely ratcheting story. The author Goldie Goldbloom weaves this webbing that tight and then gives the reader a breather for a few seconds.

John and Antonio WW2 prisoners arrived from Italy to work Gin and Mr Toads farm. I should mention Gin Boyle*Maiden name) is an extremely talented young lady who is also an Albino. Her talents are completely wasted with her husband and ch
Apr 01, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it
It’s a tough world that’s inhabited by Gin Boyle Toad – an albino, a classical pianist, an unloved woman whose life has been reduced to freak show status with the indelicate stares, the gossip, the pointing. Although she was raised in Perth’s wealthy environs and showed early and sustained musical talent, she is abused and ultimately institutionalized by her cruel and loathsome stepfather.

Her unlikely rescuer is Agrippas Toad, a dwarfish and crudely mannered farmer who happens to hear her play
Apr 08, 2011 Doreen rated it liked it
An exceedingly Australian novel, the turns of phrase delicious to read. The style is evocative of earlier times, when people weren't afraid of stringing together phrases in long, compound sentences, punctuated by semi-colons like dark, modest gems. The characters are complicated and their circumstances difficult, often grotesque, but it all rings with the authenticity of "this could have really happened," never mind that it's based on historical events. Certain of the set-pieces stick in your he ...more
Apr 08, 2011 Mandolin rated it it was ok
Shelves: given-up
I wanted to like this book. In all honesty, it does have its excellent points which have driven it to be a best seller. Goldbloom's exquisite and evocative language make it a lyrical, emotional read. Her descriptions of the Australian outback are so vivid that the reader can feel its stark violence in the air around her. Finally, her probing insight into the human heart and what it is to be trapped in one's skin, to experience the life of an outcast, to lose oneself to the pursuit of love and ac ...more
Carla JFCL
Jun 24, 2011 Carla JFCL rated it it was amazing
This might be the best book I've read since The Help; it might also be the strangest book I've read since...ever.

I was totally engrossed in this book from the start. The story line is fascinating; so are the characters and the setting (rural Australia during WWII.) The book is SO well written: the dialogue is alive and the narrative vivid. I was really able to put myself right into the story.

This is not a happy book; it's almost a study in just how miserable four people can make themselves and
Dec 15, 2014 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When asked to read this for English, I must admit, I didn't have very high expectations. I mean, what do English teachers know, right? Only joking. This book was really good. Way better than I expected.

The story is unlike anything you will read anywhere else: the language is inventive and figurative (which is always nice), the characters are all selfish and unlikable, the setting is harsh, and the plot is unpredictable. Excellent!

It goes without saying then, that a happy ending is unlikely, but
Barbara Storey
Feb 01, 2014 Barbara Storey rated it really liked it
An interesting book I picked up on a whim from a shelf in my library. Beautifully and brutally written novel about displacement in the Australian outback during WWII. The narrator, Gin - an albino; her husband, Toad - an odd dwarf of a man with repressed homosexual urges; the Italian POW, Antonio - longing for his family and fascinated by Gin. The three come together in a collision of wants and desires that are never going to be fulfilled.

It IS very well-written, though I was a bit confused by
Aug 11, 2011 Lynne rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. because it took me back to the forties, the isolation of farming in those days, the hard hard work of families and their journey to exist and find peace within the community, and be accepted. I didn't like the way the author portrayed the townsfolk as I dont see australians as people who are so nasty to those who are different. Australians would ignore people they dont approve of, not be malicious gossips.

I liked the aussie slang, it reminded of things my father would say.
Dec 30, 2014 Alistair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gin Toad is a mad, pregnant albino stuck in the middle of nowhere Western Australia during World War 2. As Gin says, God made the land and man made the cities but the devil made small country towns. The former Virginia Boyle traded marriage over a mental institution, whilst Toad married Gin to deflect small town bigotry and censure. Their's is not a happy union. The arrival of two Italian POW upends both Gin's and Toad's lives and how they see themselves. This is an astonishing novel written in ...more
I enjoyed learning about this little known fact about history in World War II: the presence of Italian POWs in Australia. I did enjoy the longing and pent-up desire of the wonderfully named Gin Toad and her Italian lover, a married man named Antonio. I also liked the brutal descriptions of outback living in a landscape filled with ants and dead carcasses. The ending was well done as its subtelty matched the rest of the story,but I was not bowled over by anything. The names were truly wonderful h ...more
Aug 06, 2012 Brynaleh rated it it was amazing
Oh, to have the words to describe the utterly vivid, imaginative imagery and language in this novel! An amazing story that left me wanting more. It's a strange and delightful novel. I am sorely disappointed that Goldie Goldbloom has no other published novels yet, and her book of short stories is only published in Australia. I have to get my hands on it somehow. She has such a way with words and an intimate understanding of difference, and the way that social stigma and marginalization affects an ...more
May 27, 2015 Gillym rated it it was amazing
Well, I finished reading this fabulous book last night and tears oozed out of my eyes. Why? Was it the powerful writing that connected to my soul? Was it the depth of feeling that transpired from the words written so eloquently that ignited such an emotional response? Or was it simply that this reading experience was over and tomorrow I would have to try and begin a new one knowing that it would not be as good or as rewarding as this gem.
I simply loved this book.
Jan 02, 2013 Katherine rated it it was amazing
Read a short review of this book in the Chicago Tribune, bought it right away and then read it with our book club. Simply one of the best books I've read in the past five years. Goldbloom creates a fascinating protagonist and an oppressive world--both so different from my own life experience that I enjoyed that great feeling that only the best books give you--that of being sucked into a great adventure. Loved every minute of it.
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Is the ending real? or not? 1 12 Mar 16, 2011 06:03PM  
Real or not real 1 7 Jun 29, 2010 10:32AM  
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