I’d like to introduce you to a couple of books that I particularly enjoyed this year before I started my blog …
This is a gently humorous novel about Miyuki and her annual trip to the same Welsh seaside village out of season, where she walks, reads, and drinks beer for a fortnight before going home refreshed to her lover. At this time of year the village is sleepy, and night after night the same small group of people frequent the pub. There’s Short Mr Hughes, Tall Mr Hughes, Mr Puw and Septic Barry among them. Miyuki who’s been going back for quite a few years, easily slips into place – until she feels herself compelled to do something that pushes else everyone into action.
The characters are all strongly drawn, and with that touch as in “The last of the summer wine”, you can’t dislike any of them with all their little obsessions and peccadilloes. As Miyuki’s fortnight holiday goes on, we gradually find out more about her and them and grow to love them all which makes the twist at the end all the more of a surprise. 9/10.
This was that rare thing – a thriller with real depth and big themes of obsession and negotiation. Its overall timbre in the writing is very much that of chiaroscuro, the artist’s skill of working with light and shade and, as you might expect from the title, art is at its core too.
Art cop Daniel Wright recovers stolen paintings; he’s one of the best at negotiating in the shadows to reclaim these purloined pictures. His speciality is Caravaggio, and there is one long-missing canvas that he once saw for just a few moments, which now obsesses him. When he’s sent to Italy to do some undercover work at the Uffizi, he seizes his chance to go after the painting, realising that it’s more important to him than his failing relationship with his wife. He’s helped towards that by meeting curator Francesca!
I’m not a fan of Caravaggio, finding him too dark, but the author does give us interesting insights into understanding why he was an artistic genius and worthy of such obsession and study. The shafts of light through this dark novel are few and far between, the characterisation is brilliant and the side of Italy that we see is very different from that experienced by any tourist. 10/10