Since I was a child, I have read from a novel every night before sleep. There have been times my schedule did not permit this and I would miss it terribly. The last couple years, however, I have read very few novels because they just couldn’t keep my attention. I would start a novel known to be a real page turner and I wouldn’t get half way through before I would abandon it.
This novel was different. I quickly fell into the soothing cadences of Henning Mankell’s writing and couldn’t have stopped reading even if I had wanted to. I don’t consider this Mr. Mankell’s best novel, but it was exactly what I needed at this time. It saddens me to think that he finished writing it the year of his death.
Here is a bit of a spoiler: my favorite part of the story may have been that most of the characters live on islands off the coast of Sweden in an archipelago. They get around in boats unless the ice is on, then they walk around. They all have boat houses on their islands in which they park their boats. The island characters live in old houses, though many of the houses have become summer retreats for city dwellers. The main character is a retired doctor who lives in his grandparent’s 100+ year old house. He continues the old tradition of bathing in the sea every morning, even when he has to chop a hole in the ice to do it. The culture of the islands is very interesting, reminiscent of many rural cultures, even the old culture of these Ozark hills.