Once again I'm joining in with Laura of Circle of Pine Trees for The Year In Books. I actually managed to read three books in February, partly because I was ill at the start of the month.
First off, I read 'A Street Cat Named Bob' by James Bowen. Mostly, I'm drawn to literary fiction, but sometimes when I see a book with a dog (as in 'Marley and Me') or a cat (as in 'Dewey - the Small Town Library Cat that Touched The World), on the cover, I just can't resist. 'A Street Cat Named Bob' is the heart-warming story of how a stray cat helped recovering drug addict and street musician James Bowen turn his life around. After James gives Bob, the ginger tom with a big personality, a home his fortunes change when Bob goes busking with him in London. It's no masterpiece but an enjoyable read.
While I've watched the Wallander series on television, I hadn't read any of the detective novels by Swedish writer Henning Mankell as I'm not into crime fiction.
However, a work colleague gave me the loan of 'Italian Shoes', promising me that I'd enjoy it - and enjoy it I did.
Mankell is a master at capturing the bleak Swedish countryside, where on a tiny island, Fredrik Welin has taken refuge in the house which belonged to his grandparents. Alone save for his aging dog and cat, the only person he sees is the hypochondriac postman, who calls even if he has no mail to deliver. His self-enforced solitude is broken when he sees a figure making her way across the ice one morning. It's Harriet, the only woman he ever really loved and who has now come to ask him to keep a promise made long ago. They begin a journey through the winter landscape to where Fredrik was taken to a secret lake in his childhood and he is forced to confront his past.
The book deals honestly with aging and death, but also touches on other issues such as how Sweden deals with immigrants and those living on the edge of society.
The same colleague, who shares my fondness for books, gave me 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared' as a Christmas present. Not for Christmas 2013 but 2012 and sadly it sat in the bookcase as I spent too much time on line.
It's by another Swedish author, Jonas Jonasson, but there all comparisons with my previous read end. I'm not sure if it's a book I would have picked for myself but once I started reading it, I was hooked.
Centenarian Allan Karisson hops out the window of the old people's home as preparations were being made for his birthday party. He makes his way to the bus depot, steals a suitcase, and boards the bus for the start of an awfully big adventure. Big and all as that adventure may be (and it's big involving criminals and drug dealing gangs, the Russian mafia, bumbling policemen, and a blond and an elephant), it's nothing compared to his previous 99 years which saw him meet world leaders including Franco, American Presidents Truman, Johnson and Nixon, Mao Tse-Tung, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, Stalin, and Brezhnev.
The book's charm lies party in its black humour and partly is Karisson's outlook on life. If people are nice to him, he will help them, especially if there's vodka involved. He's not concerned with politics or even the consequences of his actions. He bases his philosophy for life on his mother's words of
wisdom:"Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be."
A thoroughly enjoyable book which might help us look at old people in a different light.
For April I'm hoping to read 'City of Fate' by Irish author Nicola Pierce, 'A Star Called Henry' by Roddy Doyle, and 'The Accidental' by Ali Smith. The first, which is aimed at teenagers landed on my desk for review, while the other two were charity shop purchases.