At the age of 62, Henning Mankell recently bought a pair of ice skates for the first time since he was a young boy growing up in northern Sweden.
Man from BeijingI really loved the parts of this book set in Sweden, less so the parts in China and Africa. There was a bit too much about the communist political struggle in China for my taste, and the whole Africa connection seemed to stretch credulity. But this complex mystery was held together well by the main character, and I really did care what happened to her.
Interconnected WebThe Man from Beijing reminded me of that phrase about the connection between a butterfiy flapping its wings in one place on our globe and a hurricane happening at the same time in another location; supposedly somehow in the interconnected web of reality they are deeply linked. The novel The Man From Beijing has many events that while seemingly disconnected find their way back to one other through the narration. A wolf wandering the artic wastes connects with a high roller sociopath in China; a murder of a family in Nevada and a slaughter of a entire village in Sweden; the fortunes of a 19th century Chinese peasant working on a railway and a 21st Century Swedish woman judge who discovers her ancestory and her deeper self; the social-political connections between an African nation who modern day Chinese entrepeneurs treat it as a colony; these and many more are the tendacious links to be found in the story.
Like some critics have suggested it is so wide ranging that it is hard to form a connection for the characters and slightly difficult to connect. I would however say it is worth our while since our world has become a global village and we are as they say connected to everyone everywhere. Henning's social philosophy and analysis is beneath every page and prophetically predicts that the way that the most powerful treat the least powerful will have reprecussions on us all.
It is not Mankell's best but, even so, worth our while reading. I think I am glad to have found an author who is exciting and vibrant even when not writing in his absolutely best form. As for Mankell's stand alones by Mankell I prefer Italian Shoes.