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20 December 2017
Review: AFTER THE FIRE, Henning Mankell
Fredrik Welin is a retired doctor, 70 years old when his grandparents house on a small island where he lives catches fire and burns down. Fredrik is lucky to escape but all his possessions are gone. He ends up having to live in a caravan which his daughter left behind many years before.
The fire forces Fredrik to assess what is most important in his life. When fire investigators find evidence that the fire was deliberately lit Fredrik becomes the main suspect. His daughter comes home when he rings her to tell her about the fire. Theirs is a prickly relationship and one morning she leaves as suddenly as she arrived. However she has told him that she is pregnant so when she phones him from Paris to say she is in trouble, in jail, he flies to Paris to help her.
Throughout the book Fredrik recalls incidents from his life and we gradually piece together his story. There are more arson attacks and more old houses burn down. Long time residents of the community die and Fredrik becomes very aware of the fragility of his age.
What makes this book so interesting is that it appears to be a continuation of a book called The Italian Shoes which Henkell wrote in 2006. (A book I haven’t read.) In addition this is the last book Mankell wrote, and it is easy to see it as reflecting his personal concerns.
Among his notes Mankell comments that all fiction has some connection to real events.
My Rating: 4.5