Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell

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I bought this from the best-stocked secondhand English bookstore in Japan (to my knowledge) – Infinity Books in Asakusa, Tokyo – but wondered when I got on the train and studied the back of the book in better light if I hadn’t actually made a mistake. I mean, I love the Wallander mystery series and this wasn’t featuring Wallander and wasn’t even strictly speaking a mystery. Instead, it’s a poetic exploration of a 66-year-old semi-recluse’s life as he is forced to come to terms with the mistakes he made as a young man. If that sounds tedious or slow moving, it really wasn’t, as Mankell drip-feeds more and more information that allows the reader to understand our unwilling hero and appreciate the faltering journey he makes to right the wrongs he has caused. If the author of this tale had been Julian Barnes, Margaret Atwood or the like he’d be swamped with awards for this novel, but as a Swede known for crime fiction, just accept that this as a gem perhaps too easily overlooked.

No. 8 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2020.

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Patrick Sherriff, an Englishman who survived 13 years working for newspapers in the US, UK and Japan. Between teaching English lessons at his conversation school in Abiko, Japan, with his wife, he writes and illustrates textbooks for non-native speakers of English, releases Hana Walker mystery novels, short stories, essays and a monthly newsletter  highlighting good fiction published in English about Japan. Saku’s Random Book Club is his latest project to spend more time with books.

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