Reading during February consisted of just two books. That’s unusual. I am generally a prolific reader, but this month it just hasn’t happened. I think it’s the books I chose. I enjoyed both, but neither made me sit there, or want to sit there, and keep turning the page. Strangely enough, I would recommend both, but maybe you need to be in a particular mood to devour them in shorter sittings. It’s quite possibly a case of: it’s not you, it’s me.
I started the month reading The Snow Kimono (Mark Henshaw), which I chose based on its cover. It’s nothing special, but the bright blue popping on the black background, spoke to me. Set in Paris and Japan, the novel tells the stories of retired Inspector Jovert, and Tadashi Omura a former Professor of Law. The men live in the same apartment building in Paris and through their meetings and conversations with each other, their pasts are revealed. This process is the impetus to confess chapters of their lives which have become burdensome in old age and allows them to atone, to some degree, for the choices they made during that time.
I admit I struggled with the structure of the novel as it moved between the different story lines. I found it difficult to keep up with what was happening and who it was happening to. My struggle could well have been down to the fact that I read it in short bursts and needed to reread sections to figure out what was going on. Despite all this, I actually liked this book once I’d finished it. It’s a bit like how I felt after seeing La La Land – you just need time to think about it to fully appreciate what you’ve experienced. So if you have time to sit and read for extended periods of time, then this is worth the effort.
Then came The Scent of Lemon Leaves (Clara Sánchez). This time it was a review of the book that drew me in, not the cover. Although the cover is appealing, like the title, it seems to have no baring on the novel. Maybe I missed something.
This is another book that alternates between the two main characters, but this time you know exactly what’s going on. Julian, in his eighties, has spent his life chasing Nazis who escaped prosecution after WWII. Having located a community of them living undetected in Spain, he relocates to the region to collect evidence and uncover their identities. He meets an unlikely accomplice in Sandra, a young woman who has left her family and boyfriend in an attempt to come to terms with her unplanned pregnancy.
This is a slow read (but not boring), with the tension gradually building as the pair continue to put themselves in danger of being detected. Friendship, justice and retribution are the cornerstones of the novel, and for me, a good dose of wondering how guilt fails to have an impact on the continuing lives of those that behave badly toward others. I enjoyed this book despite it taking 2 weeks to read.
I’d be interested to know what you think.