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Italian Shoes Hardcover – March 10, 2009
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Basically, the novel is the story of Frederick Welin, son of a "lowly" waiter who was able to rise in status through college and medical school and become a surgeon. While a young man, he had a torrid affair with a young woman who he abandoned without explanation. Years later, an error during an operation led to an official reprimand, a decision he could not accept, so he fundamentally quit life retiring to an island offshore where he lived with only a dog and a cat for company. Lethargy ruled his days, exemplified by a growing anthill in his living room, ignored by him as it slowly took over the area.
Then one day, after 11 years on the island, now 66, his former lover is seen standing on the ice, leaning on a walker. She's dying of cancer but forces him to face up to the present (and hopefully the future).
Written by a masterful writer, this is a tale of redemption and renewal. The use of Italian shoes as a symbol of what can be accomplished by painstaking craftsmanship gives rise to optimism in an otherwise sad but poignant tale. Recommended.
I would call it a "man-story"- the proto-man from Mars. It's a story about a man with such arrested development that his EQ is negative.
"You've never been a good person", she said. "You've always shrugged off your responsibilities". Fredrik Welin is a 66 year old former surgeon, now living almost as a hermit in a house inherited from his grandparents on a remote island. He is as emotionally remote as he is physically. He couldn't express his feelings even if he had any. He's created a routine of blithe diary entries, minimal care for an old dog and cat sprinkled with empty, superficial chatter with the mail man. It's a path of least resistance for a man who doesn't make choices or decisions but rather apathetically floats into a rudderless existence; aloof, spare, empty, unchallenged, detached and spiritless.
Then one day his past comes back with a visitor at his doorstep. He's reminded of prior misdeeds. He's not a criminal per se but a man that just didn't care and if that's had consequences than it's for others not Fredrik. All his success at suppressing his thoughts and compartmentalizing events, now fails him. He is slowly, agonizingly, coming to terms with the cost of missed opportunities. He is gripped with regret and knows his simplistic routines have ended but what comes next may not be up to him.Read more ›
I found the main character in the book very unappealing. It's hard to like him. He's an old slob of a man with little personality and little charm. However I am heartened by the fact he decides to get hs life together somewhat.
What could have been a tedious exercise of introspection is saved by the pace of the book. Mankell does not allow his characters to indulge in lengthy bouts of self examination, and for this I am grateful. The book strides along at a pace that compels one to continue reading - at times I would say it's almost too quick. Some scenes could have been fleshed out a little more. The arrival of the main character and Harriet at the pool in the forest was somewhat anticlimactic, I felt that Mankell could have done more with that setting.
Overall, this is a reasonable book worthy of reading. The pace and length of the book makes it a short diversion - most people should be able to finish it in a few days.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While it is dark and suspenseful, it is not depressing. His imagery and his sense of place are enthralling. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Wilfred Norris
Henning Mankell is a real master of describing the life of a man who is not very friendly and not very good, a man with his strengths and weaknesses, a man who never complains and... Read morePublished 18 days ago by Elena
My favorite author. Sad we lost him in 2015. On a mission now to complete my Mankell collection.Published 1 month ago by PaulWard125
Captures the essence of aging and what it feels like to look back on a life of accomplishment and regrets. The main character is both despicable and familiar. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Lacy
After discovering Henning Mankell, I became a fan, and couldn't wait to read every one of his books that I could find. Read morePublished 3 months ago by kaystar