2019 European Reading Challenge

Reading Challenge

This is my first year of participating in the 2019 European Reading Challenge which is hosted by Gilion @ Rose City Reader

This is my wrap up post but I never did get around to posting any of these review links at Rose City Reader. I’ve enjoyed doing this challenge although I joined up fairly late in the year, with the aim of getting me out of my usual reading comfort zone. In fact I think I got mixed up between this challenge and something else as I had it in my mind that the books should have been originally written in another language – but I was wrong about that. Anyway, it’s just a bit of fun so – here goes.

FRANCEA Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel.

VATICAN CITYIn the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant.

RUSSIAThe White Guard by Mikhael Bulgakov.

GERMANYA Woman in Berlin by Marta Hillers.

BELGIUMAn Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer.

ICELANDSnowblind by Ragnor Jonasson.

IRELANDThe Country Girls by Edna O’Brien.

ITALYA Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri

FINLANDThe Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson

SCOTLANDMiss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant.

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri

A Nest of Vipers cover

A Nest of Vipers by Andrea Camilleri was published in 2013 but the translation copyright is 2017 and it was translated by Stephen Sartarelli.

I had already seen this one on television, I really enjoy the Montalbano series – as much for the locations in Sicily as for the crime solving and characters, but I must admit that I was a wee bit disappointed with this one. I had actually seen it ages ago on TV but either I misremembered the outcome, or they changed it for TV which I think is possible as the ending I remembered is better.

Anyway, I’ve only read one of these Montalbano books before and I don’t recall noticing that it was about 95% dialogue, which is all very well – and makes for a quick read, but there’s very little in the way of description of the area, no real sense of the locations.

An elderly widower is found dead in his dining-room by his son, but it seems he has been poisoned and also shot in the head – overkill, so to speak!

It transpires that the victim led far from a blameless life and there were plenty of people who would have liked to see him dead, in fact about half of the town of Vigata. Montalbno gets to the bottom of it of course with the help of Fazio and Augella.

There’s a lot of semi-comedy especially with Montalbano’s girlfriend Livia turning up for a visit. They bicker from the first second, even on the phone, but it’s Italy so they’re supposedly in love. I hadn’t realised before that she is useless at cooking and not much better at housekeeping, and crucially Livia and Montalbano’s domestic help Adelina hate the sight of each other so Montalbano has to forego his usual delicious meals cooked by Adelina while Livia is there and he has to dodge Livia’s terrible attempts at cooking.

This is mildly amusing but I will only give it a three on Goodreads.

I read this one for the 2019 European Reading Challenge which is being hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader.

More new to me book purchases

A recent trip to that place that I’m not supposed to be visiting – the library – ended up with me picking up four books that I had requested from them and three books from the for sale shelves. Honestly, there’s no hope for me!

I bought A Lovely Way to Burn by the Scottish author Louise Welsh. This was apparently a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, but I didn’t hear it.

The news of Andrea Camilleri’s death had just been announced a few days before and although I love watching the TV programme Montalbano which is based on these books I had only read one of them. So two have just joined my TBR list:

A Nest of Vipers and
The Pyramid of Mud

I’ll read one of those ones for the Reading Europe Challenge which I’ve been neglecting.

The Courts of Idleness cover

A trip into the West Port area of Edinburgh ended up with me buying two books by an author who seemed to be haunting me at one point as everywhere I went I saw his books, just as another blogger told me they were worth reading – the books all disappeared! So when I saw a whole load of Dornford Yates books I snapped up a couple of them. I was drawn to the modern paperback reprint first as I like the stylish cover. The Courts of Idleness is supposed to be funny – so fingers crossed because I need a laugh.

The other Dornford Yates book I bought is an old hardback from 1946 called The Stolen March. It was originally given to someone called Joyce from Kenneth in Falmouth, 8 May 1947. I love inscribed books but I never write in my own although I sometimes think I should. What are your thoughts on the matter?

I try not to buy books via the internet but sometimes you have no alternative as the chances of what you’re looking for turning up in a secondhand bookshop are just about nil, so I bit the bullet and bought The Stream That Stood Still and The Tree That Sat Down by Beverley Nichols, part of a woodland fantasy trilogy for young people. The other one I already had is The Mountain of Magic.

Have you read any of these ones?

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri

Dance of the Seagull cover

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri was first published in 2013 and it’s another one which I have seen on TV but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it.

The setting is of course Sicily. Salvo Montalbano’s long-suffering girlfriend Livia is expecting to be going on holiday with him but he makes a last minute trip to the police station where he discovers that his colleague Fazio is missing. All thoughts of Livia go straight out of his mind as he begins a frantic search for Fazio.

Watching the TV programme I had always been a bit puzzled by the Montalbano/Livia relationship and this book makes it clear that it’s a romance of long-standing which has just run out of steam. He just isn’t into her that much now – as the modern term goes.

There’s plenty of comedy and I was particularly amused when early on in the book Livia tells Montalbano that he might want to avoid a particular part of the town where they are filming Montalbano, unless he wants to bump into the actor who is playing him. Montalbano complains that the actor is far too young and bald to be him, and he is because it seems that he is actually 57 years old – in the book anyway.

This is another good read, I just wonder if all of the books have been dramatised?

Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri

I picked up Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri from the library thinking that it was another Inspector Montalbano book and I was quite disappointed when I got home and realised that it isn’t. It is set in Sicily but it’s Sicily 1880. A strange young man called Fofo arrives in Vigata and the townsfolk are concerned when they find out that he is the son of a local peasant who had been murdered years before.

Fofo sets up as a pharmacist and becomes quite popular as he’s a useful member of their society, but the place is run along feudal lines really with the local member of the so-called nobility Don Filippo, a philandering marquis at the top of the pile. There are a fair few murders, but along the way there are also a lot of people jumping into bed with folks that they really shouldn’t be there with. It seems that Sicily of 1880 was a free and easy place.

I didn’t enjoy this book nearly as much as the Inspector Montalbano books.

Apparently the author got the idea for writing the book from the old British film Kind Hearts and Coronets, it’s one of my favourite films an old one from 1949 and I think you can watch it free online.

The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri is an Inspector Montalbano mystery, first published in 1994 although I think it wasn’t translated and published in the UK until 2003. I had seen this one on TV, I like Montalbano even although it is subtitled which means that you have to concentrate on it – no knitting or interneting at the same time!

Of course the books are police procedurals, and the setting is Sicily so inevitably the crimes are usually Mafia linked.

Two street cleaners have discovered the body of Silvio Luparello in his car. He was an engineer, well known and influential as he had Mafia links. The area he has been found in is used by prostitutes and drug dealers after dark, and the powers that be are keen to announce that the death was from natural causes, but Montalbano isn’t so sure.

Apart from the investigation there are also bits of Montalbano’s personal life and his love for the local food, with a fair few meals being described – no recipes though! It’s witty, with Montalbano getting all the best lines and although the book has 244 pages, the print is huge so it’s a quick read.