Italian Shoes
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Italian Shoes

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  2,568 ratings  ·  416 reviews
Once a successful surgeon, Frederick Welin now lives in self-imposed exile on an island in the Swedish archipelago. Nearly 12 years have passed since he was disgraced for attempting to cover up a tragic mishap on the operating table. One morning he sees a hunched figure struggling towards him across the ice. His past is about to catch up with him.
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published April 2009 by Harvill Secker (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Com este livro, conheci um novo autor que consegue expressar emoções e fazer chegar essas mesmas emoções a quem tiver oportunidade de o ler.

É um livro que fala ao coração sobretudo acerca de solidão. Um livro que nos transporta ao futuro, permite-nos ver um pouco das consequências quando nos desligamos e não enfrentamos as realidades. Fala do que é envelhecer e não ter nada por que viver. Também fala de reencontros. . . e encontros.

Fala do amor a animais, mas também da sua perda. Fala de isolam...more
Roderick Hart
This novel is not part of the Wallander series and no crime is involved. It may be unusual in that the two most important characters are both old. Frederick Welin is a surgeon, now retired, who lives on a Swedish island. But for his cat and his dog, both of whom are also old, he lives alone. Given his anti-social tendencies that may be just as well. The only regular contact he has is with Jansson, a postman who delivers what little mail he gets. Jansson is a hypochondriac who regularly has Welin...more
What I knew of Henning Mankell prior to reading this novel is limited to a Greek TV interview (parts 1, 2, and 3 here – the interview itself is in English, so feel free to watch) and also the various essays he’s published related to his activism in Mozambique and Palestine.
To a certain extent, therefore, as I read I was comparing the protagonist & narrator of Italian Shoes to the author himself. This is not to say that the novel is autobiographical, but there are specific themes in Italian...more
Beth Hartnett
Swedish author Henning Mankell is known for his Kurt Wallander mystery series, books I intend to check out even though I am not a huge fan of the genre. The writing, at times sparse, at times lyrical, always wonderful, pushed this novel from a 4 to a 5 star for me. The very first quote drew me in..."When the shoe fits, you don't think about the foot..." Chuang Chou. The character development is subtle and spot on as you are drawn into the main character's life and come to understand the choices...more
Virgil Larson
This book produced a number of vivid and often bizarre images for me. Here is a list of the most memorable: the desolate island seascape; the cold white of the bitter winter; the living room with the ant hill slowly consuming the table cloth; Jansson, the hypochondriac postman with the hydrocopter and his many layers of clothes; Fredrik chopping a hole in the ice and bathing in the icy sea water just to remind himself that he is alive; the appearance of Harriet after 37 years, standing with her...more
The Boston Globe calls Henning Mankell the "master of atmosphere." This sense of atmosphere is what keeps me reading his Kurt Wallander mysteries, set in Sweden. This book, Italian Shoes, is not a Kurt Wallander mystery; however, it contains many of the elements of the Wallander series: a wounded main character who is lost in his own past failings; a landscape as cold and barren as the main character's life; and a parade of secondary characters as eccentric as they are deeply developed. Also, th...more
For the life of me, I don’t understand all the rave reviews this book has received. It only took me two days to read, and after a slew of verbose, florid and over used adjective laden novels, I was initially drawn in by the author’s sparse writing style, but, that wasn’t enough to make the novel.

It could have been such an interesting story but eventually became far too ridicules and unbelievable. Every chapter ended with another implausible scenario to the point that my finishing the book was s...more
Paul Patterson
Not a page turner. Not a mystery, at least, not a typical Mankell mystery. Italian Shoes is rather like an exercise in learning how to read slowly and sumptuously. Sixty-six year old Frederick Welin for the last twelve years has lived reclusively on an island, formerly owned by his grandparents, in an archipelago off the coast of Sweden. He was an educated man, a medical man. who made a mistake which drove him Grendel-like to the edge of civilization. As a result, he had all the time in the worl...more
Maria João Fernandes
"Vivia sozinho naquela ilha há doze anos. Agora era como se a ilha tivesse sido invadida por três mulheres."

Fredrik Welin tem 66 anos e é o único habitante de uma ilha do Báltico. Há 12 anos que vive isolado da sociedade, tendo como companhia o seu cão, a sua gata e uma comunidade de formigas que se apoderaram de um cantinho na sua sala de estar.
O único contacto humano que tem é com o carteiro, Jansson, a quem proibiu de trazer publicidade. O antigo cirurgião não gosta muito do homem, mas é ele...more
Steven Langdon
Henning Mankell has written some amazing books -- his Kurt Wallander mystery stories about a Swedish policeman are superb, and recently he has also written interesting books set in whole or part in Africa (such as "The Eye of the Leopard.) "Italian Shoes" is a much different work. It is set mainly in an isolated coastal area of Northern Sweden, is not an action or mystery novel, and recounts the late-life changes that hit a grim and self-punishing Swedish doctor who has turned himself into a nea...more
This novel is a little different to the well-known Wallander series. It focuses on a retired surgeon who left his profession in disgrace and lives alone on a small island in the Stockholm archipelago. His heart is as frozen as the Baltic waters in winter and he believes that the rest of his life will be lived out in this way. However, all this changes when his former lover, a woman whom he had abandoned many years previously, turns up unexpectedly on the island to demand that he fulfills a promi...more
Cheryl Bradley
Not a mystery, for once! After distrastrously amputating the wrong arm of a patient, former surgen Fredik Welin hides himself out in his grandparents' old house on an isolated island in Sweden's outer archipelago. During the winter, just to remind himself he is still living, he cuts open a hole in the ice and drops down naked into the freezing water below. Life has had little meaning for him the last 12 years since his great catastrophe as a surgeon, but all that changes when one winter morning,...more
Because of the Masterpiece series, and also having seen some Swedish episodes of Kurt Wallander, I started reading Henning Mankell. I've enjoyed the Wallander books, but Mankell also writes general fiction. The narrator of this story lives alone on a Swedish island trying to escape from a past where, as a surgeon, he made a tragic error. One day he sees a woman on the ice coming towards him. She brings to life a past he tried to ignore and forget, and her dying wish is that he fulfill a promise...more
É um livro que me tocou, que me fez pensar. É um livro que fala de velhos, de jovens, de vida, de morte e de como cada um escolhe a melhor forma de viver a sua vida.
É um grande romance sobre pessoas. Pessoas tão diferentes e especiais que, aparentemente, só existem em ficção. No entanto, ao chegar ao fim do livro fiquei com a sensação de ter estado a conviver com pessoas reais, com as quais ri, chorei e de quem já tenho saudades.
Está muito bem escrito. É um livro pequeno, de leitura fluida e sim...more
ITALIAN SHOES OK, I admit, I read it in translation. This is not one of Mankell's mysteries so maybe, just maybe, his fans won't be interested. But that would be a mistake. A wonderful story of a retired doctor living a solitary existence on a remote Swedish island, who thinks he has removed himself from life, when an old woman appears on the ice pushing a walker. Suddenly, and very unexpectedly, he now has a family. One of the finest looks at aging and family I've come across in a long time. Th...more
Plot: not much
Likable hero: not really
Ends tied up by end of book: only sort of

And yet Mankell is such a good writer that it still holds the interest.

My only complaint is that the first person narrator keeps describing how he "let the dog out" or "let the cat out" and I am distracted, wondering if he's going to let them in again, or leave them out there to freeze (given that some wild animals freeze to death on his cold, northern island).
This was such a weird book. Felt very meandering and pointless and strangely plotted but like the kind of book that you could picture some really highbrow literary person saying was sooooooo amazing and had all these hidden themes and meanings but an average reader ( like me) would be totally baffled by...
Scherry Siganporia
Readers! This is truly a book which is beautifully written, narrated with emotions which complex you, simple characters, simplicity personified through the life of the main character who banishes himself to the cold freezing ice covered island of Sweden where he lives a life of loneliness, sorrow and repent. But footprints in the snow one fine morning changes his life forever...the book is meant to be slow, taking the reader through all the emotions of cold biting winter and cold biting remembra...more
Well, not so much liked as admired. Mankell is a master of bleak and empty, and this is one of those books. Perfect for a grey, blustery January day, if you are a bit of a masochist. Or for a black and white Ingmar Bergman film is such things were still possible.

Welin is a 66 year old surgeon who cut off a young woman's healthy arm by mistake and has retired to an empty island left him by his grandparents, where he has spent 12 years with a crippled old dog, an elderly cat and a giant anthill fo...more
Kathleen Hagen
Italian Shoes, by Henning Mankell, A. narrated by Henry Strozier, produced by recorded Books, downloaded from

Henry Welin was a retired surgeon who lived on a deserted island in Sweden. He retired from medicine twelve years earlier after he had made an astronomical mistake during a surgery. He hid himself away from the world in exile. Then one day, in the middle of the winter, he heard the sound of a hydrocopter coming from the mainland. When he looked out, someone was laying on the...more
ITALIAN SHOES by Henning Mankell goes to prove, once again, that a really good writer is a really good writer, regardless of the genre, styling, or setting of the book. Exploring the themes of estrangement, loss, fear and isolation ITALIAN SHOES isn't a crime fiction novel, it's a poignant, beautiful, sad, uplifting and evocative look at a man, his life, his mistakes and his redemption.

Frederick Welin is sixty-six years old, a former surgeon who has spent the last 12 years of his life, purposely...more
Quantas vezes não damos por nós a querer fazer uma auto-reflexão sobre assuntos que resolvemos mal e não conseguimos? Mesmo que façamos uma tentativa exaustiva, não o conseguimos levar a cabo, por um motivo ou por outro. Talvez porque, em certa medida, lidar com as nossas próprias falhas não é saboroso. Faz-nos ir buscar ao baú da memória situações que sentimos que poderíamos ter resolvido de outra forma.

Este livro, através da estória que narra, remete-nos para um encontro com o passado, com um...more
João Carlos
O sueco Henning Mankell é um dos meus escritores preferidos, que acompanho de uma forma contínua os seus magníficos livros policiais, com destaque óbvio para os protagonizados por Kurt Wallander. A sua longa ligação a Moçambique onde é Director do Teatro Avenida em Maputo e o seu envolvimento em inúmeras “causas humanitárias” no continente africano, com destaque para “SOS Children´s Villages” e “Save the Children”, colocam-no na vertente pessoal, num patamar de relevo inquestionável.
A edição em...more
When Garrison Keiller talks about the “dour Swedes” he’s right on track as far as this book is concerned. The protagonist is a prime example. He has lived by himself on a bleak island for 12 years, making little attempt to connect with other human beings. He jumps into icy lake water every morning just to remember that he’s still alive. He allows the property he inherited from his grandparents to deteriorate to the point of living with a giant anthill in the living room. Years ago he walked out...more
A novel of isolation, several lonely and alone characters come into contact with each other over the course of a year. The time is characterized by the presence or absence of ice, and sunshine appears briefly. The protagonist, Fredrik, has spent his life running, or hiding, and during this year he is discovered and reveals himself to past associations.

Here's a taste:
"We're always being made promises,' she said. 'You make them yourself and you listen to others giving theirs. Politicians are alway...more
I was first introduced to Henning Mankell through a DVD I ordered by mistake through Netflex. That got me hooked on his Kurt Wallander mystery series produced by BBC. One of the special features featured an interview with him about his writing, and I learned that he is a famous Swedish author. Since then, I've read three of his novels this year (translated from Swedish--once you get used to the pacing and wording, it has an "atmosphere" of its own!), of which this is one. This particular book is...more
Irais Elvira
Me gustó mucho la manera en que está narrada.
No es de esas novelas que no puedes soltar sin embargo si quieres seguir leyendo.

De alguna manera todas la mentiras dichas terminan por alcanzarnos. Nos aferramos a algún sentimiento porque es el que nos hace poder continuar aunque en algún momento tengamos que soltarlo.
Carey Combe
Started slowly, then got more and more compelling. Loved it.
Best known as a popular Swedish author of detective novels, Henning Mankell here creates a meditative novel in a growing sub-genre of bildungsroman that deals not with the transition from childhood to adolescence, but rather from middle age to elderhood. Narrator Fredrik has always been one to eavesdrop, poke in people's purses and drawers and, as a surgeon, in their bodies to discover their secrets and invade their worlds without remorse. His own world, however, he has largely preferred to leav...more
Jayne Charles
I didn’t get on with this at all. It read as though the author had taken delivery of a flat-packed plot, and assembled it without reference to the instructions. Opening with the central character Frederick - former surgeon and eavesdropper - living a reclusive life, it turns out to be a fairly standard Recluse-Forced-To-Reintegrate storyline. Pretty much the same story as A.M.Homes’ “This Book will Save your Life” but not as good or remotely as funny.

As events unfold, one of Frederick’s old fla...more
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Henning Mankell is an internationally known Swedish crime writer, children's author and playwright. He is best known for his literary character Kurt Wallander.

Mankell splits his time between Sweden and Mozambique. He is married to Eva Bergman, Swedish director and daughter of Ingmar Bergman.
More about Henning Mankell...
Faceless Killers (Kurt Wallander, #1) The Fifth Woman (Wallander, #6) Sidetracked (Wallander #5) The Dogs of Riga (Kurt Wallander #2) The Man Who Smiled (Wallander #4)

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“It was a clear, starry night, dead calm. Whenever I see a sky
like that, I wish I could write music”
“We’re always being made promises,’ she said. ‘You make them yourself
and you listen to others giving theirs. Politicians are always going
on about providing a better quality of life for people as they get older,
and a health service in which nobody ever gets bedsores. Banks promise
you high interest rates, some food promises to make you lose weight if
you eat it, and body creams guarantee old age with fewer wrinkles. Life
is quite simply a matter of cruising along in your own little boat through
a constantly changing but never-ending stream of promises. And how
many do we remember? We forget the ones we would like to remember,
and we remember the ones we’d prefer to forget.”
More quotes…