I always feel more lonely when it's cold.
–Henning Mankell - Italian Shoes - c.2006
Translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson
Fredrik Welin, our first person narrator, lives alone on an island he inherited from his grandparents. His only regular visitor is the postman, Jansson, even though Welin rarely receives any letters. Still Jansson calls more than once a week for a medical consultant. Frederik may no longer be a practising surgeon but he can still diagnose a hypochondriac.
But one day Welin’s isolation is truly shattered when a woman shows up on the ice. Harriet and he were once lovers, but then he left her, disappeared out of her life to travel to the US and never saw her again. Until she showed up on the ice. From this surprise encounter Frederik’s whole life is about to change.Frederik is not a nice character. I never liked him. In fact, none of the characters in the book are particularly nice or engaging. Frederik is so determined to stay isolated from the world; he seems to have spent his whole life abandoning people. His dying mother, his girlfriend, patients, humankind as a whole.
Harriet never really got over her abandonment. And when we meet her she is dying of cancer, she doesn’t have the energy to “make nice” anymore.
But despite all Frederik’s wrongs he is still an intriguing character, and his journey throughout the book definitely kept my interest. Still, it is not a book I could really see myself recommending to anyone, or rereading it.