Strange weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami


What a strange story. A story of the romance between a high school teacher and a former pupil. A story of the relationship between two drinking partners and their love of food. A story of how a friendship between two lonely single people blossoms into a very touching romance. And a story of our mortality. Forget about the vaporous flights of fancy of Bridget Jones. Tsukiko is a Japanese woman fast approaching 40. The Japanese career has consumed Tsukiko's life. Throughout the book, we do not meet any of her friends, the girlfriends that support single women. The closest thing to a friend that we are introduced to is the occasional boyfriend Kojima, a former classmate. Kojima loses out in the end to the old school teacher, Sensei.

The friendship between Sensei and Tsukiko begins when Sensei recognises Tsukiko in a bar. From that chance meeting, a friendship grows, laced with copious alcohol and plates of food. We learn a little about Sensei's life, and we also learn that despite his advanced years, Sensei is considerably fitter than Tsukiko.

At times, I found the reading uncomfortable, I do not want lengthy descriptions of an old man, but that is part of the story, the age difference between Tsukiko and Sensei. It is an interesting read, a beautifully crafted love story with a slow fuse, and an ending that is to be expected. Worth reading.

The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi

Initially I bought this as an audio book because Audible ad a two for one offer. But I eventually succumbed to buying a Kindle version as well. As an audio book it was difficult to listen too, especially when driving. It starts off as two separate stories, completely unconnected, and then a third story is added later in the book. So now we have the story of Marcus, a man with no memory investigating the disappearance of Lara an architecture student, the story of Sandra, who is trying to find out why her husband died 6 months previously and the story of the hunter, a man with no name on the trail of "The Transformist", a mysterious serial killer. Some reviewers have likened the work to that of Dan Browne, but this does it a great injustice. OK, so there is a secret society, the Penitenzeri. Very Dan Browne. A society dedicated to documenting evil, and whose members are Roman Catholic priests. But this is a dying society, phased out by the modern Church. All that remains are a few individuals. Not very Dan Browne, for Mr Browne wants the Church to remain as a mythical superpower of evil.

"There is place in which the world of light meets the world of darkness. It is there that everything happens: in the land of shadows where everything is vague, confused, undefined.." The litany of the Penitenzeri. And some move from the world of light to the world of darkness. And therein lies the evil and the danger of the Penitenzeri.

The ending is unexpected. Lara is recued. Sandra discovers why her husband died. The hunter finds his quarry. But there is one loose end. The fate of Marcus.

I think I would recommend this as a book-read first before listening to it. And try not to drive when listening.

The Hundred Year Old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Perhaps another title could be "A History of the 20th century", for the central character, Allan Karlsson, seems to have been in on some of the pivotal moments of the 20th century and indeed, met the key players of the 20th Century (at least, through Swedish eyes).

The story is well told and does end happily ever after. It is funny, often unbelievable as a group of the most unlikely characters gather around Allan on his adventures. The story tells the life of Allan born in 1905 as well as the story of what happens after Allan climbs out of the window.


The Lewis Man by Peter May

This was one of those 20p books from Amazon. Book 2 of a trilogy. Except that it did not feel like a part work.
The setting is the isles of Harris and Lewis where a perfectly preserved corpse, pickled in the bog is found. The story unfolds. Fin McLeod is returning to his roots after the death of his son and the breakdown of his marriage

It is an enjoyable read – the Hebrides really play the central role in this book. And so does Alzeimers. How do you get into the head of someone with dementia? Peter May gives us an insight.

Yann Martel: Beatrice and Virgil – First thoughts

I am really struggling with this book – normally I pick up a book and begin reading. The plot will unfold and by the third chapter I will have the map of the unknown country described by the author in my head. But here it is a different story. I was struggling so much that I have had to resort to reading reviews etc. just to be able to grasp what this book is about.

The book is an attempt to show how the holocaust can be depicted in art – or perhaps how it should be depicted in various forms of art.

Who are Beatrice and Virgil? These are the guides in Dante’s Divine Comedy. But here they are a donkey and a howler monkey, occupying the space between not alive and not dead.

The more reviews I read, the more confused I become. The main protagonist is an author called Henry who wrote an absurdly successful book and now is struggling to launch another magnum opus. And out of the blue, another Henry, this one a taxidermist, contacts Henry about a play he is trying to write. The characters are in fact stuffed animals in the taxidermist’s shop and the play is called “The 20th Century Shirt”. And the big question to be answered “How are we going to talk about what happened to us one day when it is over”? And so the allusions to the holocaust and representations in art.

This is a book that has to be read carefully and I am proceeding slowly. My problem is that this is a digital library book and expires in 3 days. Perhaps I will renew it.