The Wilder Aisles 

Janice Wilder has been a legend of Sydney bookselling for over 40 years.

A very clever scheme

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Apart from one book, my column this month is a preview of future reading. I have been given quite a few books to read, mostly proofs from publishers, so I thought I would give readers a peak into some of the titles I am looking forward to reading. But first the book I have just read, the new Andrea Camilleri, Angelica's Smile. In true Camilleri style, although this is quite a short book, the narrative is quite convoluted with lots of twists & turns along the way. The story is based on a series of actual burglaries that occurred in Rome, a very clever scheme, involving holiday houses & city apartments. At first I was rather disappointed in the wonderful Montalbano being so absolutely beguiled by the smile of Angelica Cosulich that he lost the plot in investigating the crime—made worse by the fact that the reader can't help but suspect that the bewitching Angelica may be involved in the burglaries. Of course, I had to forgive Montalbano his juvenile behaviour, as I really love him & his flawed but very human character. His way of dealing with his superiors is nothing short of genius—he assumes that they are all incompetent & he treats them as such. There is a wonderful scene when Montalbano is called to the commissioner's office to meet with the deputy commissioner, Ermanno Mancannuco. Montalbano, knowing that the information with which they hope to catch him out is incorrect, plays along until he finally puts them right, much to their discomfort. Along with Inspector Montalbano, the law enforcement officers of Vigata include my second favourite character, Catarella, who speaks in a language of his own making and always gets everything wrong, & Fazio, with his amazing retentive memory and love of detail. Along with the burglaries, there are a couple of murders & a non-fatal shooting, but on the whole there is very little violence in Camilleri's books—a thing that I also like. I must mention that all throughout the book there are quotes from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso & very appropriate they are. This is a very entertaining & at times quite funny book, especially around Montalbano's crush on Angelica with the amazing smile.

Now to future reads. I am in the middle of Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs by Linda Olsson. Olsson was born in Sweden and lived in a number of countries before settling in New Zealand. I noticed this book when sending it to a mail order customer. I thought it looked interesting so I ordered myself a copy—I'm so glad I did. It is the story of a friendship that develops between a young writer and an older woman in a remote village in Sweden. Veronica is there to write a novel but is having trouble starting, and Astrid has locked herself away to escape her past. As their friendship progresses, each woman reveals what has led them to this place. I am really enjoying this book so far, and I am sure it will not disappoint.

My next 'to-be-read' is The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler. This may look a bit like chick-lit, but I've got a feeling it will be just the thing for people who love books, the struggles of the independent bookstore and Manhattan. Which is where Esme Garland, an idealistic young woman, has moved to be with her lover. For a time life is wonderful, but when he ups and leaves, Esme is desolate—until she finds a job in a small West Side bookstore. She comes to love the bookstore, which is struggling like so many today, and is passionate in her desire to help save it. Looks like quite light reading, but sometimes that is exactly what I need. I would also recommend for those who haven't already read it, the wonderful book with the same title by Anita Brookner.

Linda Grant is a favourite author of mine. I really liked two of her earlier novels, The Clothes on Their Backs and We Had It So Good. This new one, Upstairs at the Party, tells the story of Evie/Stevie a glamorous androgynous couple who suddenly appear out of nowhere on an isolated concrete campus of a new university. They unsettle everyone and everything, uncovering secret desires amongst a group of teenagers experimenting with radical ideas. One of these, Adele, who has the most secrets, becomes obsessed with Evie. Even after Evie has long gone, Adele still feels her influence—as do all who were involved with her. Set in the 1970s, the novel was inspired by a particular time in Grant's life, and the story moves between summers in Cornwall and London. I am really looking forward to reading this.

Just quickly to end, the new Louise Welsh looks scarily good, if you like that kind of thing. I have written about Welsh before, The Girl on the Stairs, but I have a feeling that it's probably quite tame compared to this new one. A Lovely Way to Burn is the first book in The Plague Times trilogy, which tells the story of a pandemic called The Sweats that is sweeping the globe. I haven't quite made up my mind to read this, but she is such a good writer I most likely won't be able to help myself. Janice Wilder

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