©2006 Henning Mankell; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
"Mankell continues to write literary fiction in addition to his popular crime series starring Swedish policeman Kurt Wallander. This time he tells the story of a lonely old man living alone on an isolated island. Why is former surgeon Fredrik Welin hiding on his grandparents' island? Can anything break him loose from his self-imposed exile? These two questions guide this short, beautiful, and ultimately life-affirming novel, as first one woman and then another enter Fredrik's island prison." (Booklist)
I love Henning Mankell's work and expected to love this novel, even though it is not a mystery nor does it cast the same characters as I know from the Wallander books.
But right from the first, I found this a difficult read. The characters are not in the least appealing and selfishness and petty grudges get tiresome after awhile. Not all grudges are petty, however, and the ones that aren't, make me like these people even less. There is an amazing streak of recklessness that runs through all of the major players. Some of them have paid a high price for mistakes in the past, but they certainly have not learned from those mistakes.
If I were to meet any of the major characters out in the real world, I would watch them with morbid fascination for a bit, then have to turn away in disgust. Sadly, the book continued long after my fascination ended.
I will continue to read any Mankell books that I find as he is a marvelous writer, but I hope I do not come across any more failed doctors or terrible mothers in the process, or at least any like those in this book.
The narrator did a fine job and was credible as the aging, dissolute protagonist.
So insightful into the Nordic personality -- more said unspoken than spoken. A great book full of tragedy, loss, redemption, and love. Mankell's versatility shines here and it made me want to go live on an island in the Swedish archipelago! Good narration, too.
A quietly engrossing character development of a man we might know. Mankell describes the hurts of his characters, bound by problems, insecurities. He opens a window into our minds, and exposes our means of coping with life. The narrator does a fine job. A great read. My first taste of Henning Mankell, and I'll look for more.
I liked the overall story and setting but found it a bit depressing... Dying ex-girlfriend returns...
No, but it was a bit depressing..
Not a funny book
This story is a complete departure from the hugely popular Kurt Wallander series and Mankell's many other excellent stories. The Italian Shoes is pensive, much more introspective and reflective. It wanders slowly across the lifespan of an intelligent but ego-centric physician with minimal people skills and zero ability to form intimate, meaningful relationships. Even his "good deeds" were performed with a cold, clinically detached, sterile touch. The pace is slow and the writing does not convey the excitement and sense of urgency one expects, based on Henning Mankell's other works. I kept waiting in vain for the other shoe to drop.
I'm not comfortable recommending it because it is so slow and meandering. Henning Mankell is a wonderful writer. He infuses his characters with idiosyncrasies and human frailties that breathe life into them. The lives in Italian Shoes were simply not ones I felt compelled to know more about. I listened to every word of this book because I am a loyal fan and kept hoping for the "payoff" that didn't arrive.
The never-ending story.
Yes, it is sort of a mystery, but much more about his character's coming to terms with the life he has lived and facing the results of choices he made that left him emotionally cut off from others, as he is physically cut off on his island in northern Sweden.
Filled with interesting characters, and a giant anthill growing in the living room, it is
somewhat offbeat. I enjoyed it and was sorry when it ended.
But still a good story with an eccentric main character. Loved the background setting on a lonely island on a lonely, frozen coast. I was sad to reach the end.
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
A quiet, beautiful, engrossing story of a man who finds redemption late in life. Sure, he is not perfect, he is flawed. This only makes him more human and it also makes the story more believable. Narration was wonderful and fit the character/story perfectly. Highly recommended unless you are an action junkie and need more stimulation in your reading. For me, I was sorry to see it end, and it stayed with me in the days after I finished the story.
This is the fifth book I've experienced by Henning Mankell, the first audiobook. The story is unique and subtle and poignant, strange as only real life can be. Henry Strozier has a voice that perfectly suits the main character. The story begins slowly and flatly to express the emptiness and desolation of this man's life, yet moves forward with the events that pull him back into the land of the living. I both laughed and cried while listening to Italian Shoes. I will listen to this again one day, with great pleasure.
The subtlety of this unique first-person story.
The main character, this damaged, vulnerable and greatly flawed man.
The party for the dying Harriett. Beautiful.
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