The figure approaching in the freezing cold is Harriet, the only woman he has ever loved, the woman he abandoned in order to go and study in America forty years earlier. She has sought him out in the hope that he will honour a promise made many years ago. Now in the late stages of a terminal illness, she wants to visit a small lake in northern Sweden, a place Welin's father took him once as a boy. He upholds his pledge and drives her to this beautiful pool hidden deep in the forest. On the journey through the desolate snow-covered landscape, Welin reflects on his impoverished childhood and the woman he later left behind.
However, once there Welin discovers that Harriet has left the biggest surprise until last.Italian Shoes is as compelling as it is disturbing. Through his anti-hero Welin, Mankell tackles ageing and death with sensitivity and acuity, and as with the critically acclaimed Depths, delivers a moving tour-de-force on the frailty of mankind.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Rulf Neigenfind on 30-03-10
An exceptional book...
After having finished reading Henning Mankell's novel "Depths" a few months ago, I felt strangely sad because I had the feeling that this exceptional book would probably be just a one-off by the Wallander author. However, with "Italian Shoes" Mankell did it again. Although about aging, sickness and death, this novel is extraordinarily positive and in parts even funny. The warmth of this introspective tale of an old man who gets finally confronted with a past he fled long ago is superbly enhanced by Sean Barrett?s powerful narration and, of course, Laurie Thompson?s excellent English translation. With "Italian Shoes", Mankell is once again on par with his Nordic peers Jostein Gaarder, Peter Hoeg or even Knut Hamsun. The Wallander books are by all means great but they have "branded" this author in such a way that "Depths" or "Italian Shoes" are quite unexpected -- which might lead to misunderstandings with readers who are just after a good crime read.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Hannah on 07-01-10
A gentle walk in the park
This book is so different from the dark and brutal Inspector Wallander series of books it amazes me how it could be the same author. This book is like a slow walk in the park it meanders on without offense. It talks of the life of a retired surgeon who has hidden himself away on his ancestral island and how one decision he made many years before comes back and changes his life forever. Nothing especially happens in this book it is just a gentle tale of an old mans life and how new people enter it and change him forever. It end a little abruptly as I found in a previous Mankell Novel, leaving you with plenty of questions but it is not a bad thing.
The book has charm and if your looking for a gentle story that you can listen to with ease then give it a try.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Colin on 18-09-11
Mankell shows his humanity again
Sean Barrett is a truly gifted Narrator and, once again, he takes Mankell readers on a deeply moving, original and authentic exploration of the human condition. Mankell understands the inner-worlds we all inhabit without being diverted into cliche or indulgence. His descriptions of the Swedish landscape and season augment the narrative beautifully. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By Anna on 19-12-10
Surprising and Profound
I have just finished listening to this extraordinary book. It is unlike anything else I have read by Henning Mankell and I loved it. It is a story of lives meeting, parting and intersecting; of love, trust, betrayal and forgiveness, which provokes and moves. Mankell has created a work that challenges predjudice and pre-conception and which generously salutes our shared humanity but he does so with his usual vigour so we are never bored. Brilliant. I salute too the narrator Sean Barrett who reads beautifully and with his usual intelligence and understanding.
I also want to get my feet into some of those Italian Shoes!