Category: Great Books


This cryptic thought is from Andrea Camilleri’s mystery The Shape of Water (or La Forma dell’Acqua in the original Italian). Since the concept is key to how Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano unravels a suspected murder, I won’t reveal what it means, but it’s one example of the fascinating way this Sicilian author thinks. His characters are not only funny, smart, daring and charming but even philosophical.

cover, Italian edition of La Forma dell'AcquaAnother line I like from the book is, “At that moment, the studio door opened, and an angel appeared.” You might expect the tough cop Montalbano to have this thought about a beautiful woman (especially since he tends to meet lots of them), but the angel turns out to be a sensitive young man overwhelmed with grief for the victim in the story.

The book lovers on Bookflurries first led me to the Montalbano books and the TV series based on them. Figuring that the subtitled TV shows might help in my slow quest to learn Italian, I started watching them with Hubby and got hooked at the opening aerial views of hillside architecture in bella Sicilia. Hubby bought me La Forma dell’Acqua after I mentioned wanting to try reading the book in the original language.

Even with my limited fluency, stumbling through La Forma was a labor of love. Like Winnie in my own Italian-set mystery The Five-Day-Dig, I’m fascinated by language. It’s interesting to note that some English idioms translate almost word-for-word into Italian. Montalbano worries about dealing with someone “non avrebbe voluto spartirci il pane,” literally, with whom “he wouldn’t want to break bread.” And when a colleague he dislikes asks how he knew something unexpected, he says, “Mi l’ha detto il mio uccello,” the way we might say, “A little bird told me.”

Loved both the book (linked above) and the TV version. The episode isn’t currently available for video streaming on Amazon (even though it’s listed here), but you can get it on DVD with two other episodes here.

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The Die Is Cast

Do you ever notice a motif running through your life? A few years ago, Hubby had to work a trade show in Las Vegas. Around the same time, we saw the remake of Casino Royale, set partly in Monte Carlo. And I read George Eliot’s book, Daniel Deronda.

Now, I’m not a gambler. There are a few things I’ll take a leap of faith for — love is one — but very few. Daniel Deronda opens in a casino, where Daniel watches a beautiful young woman playing deep and winning. She’s a gambler. Is he?

The other rival for his heart is very different. She has an unwavering course laid out for her life. Which one of them will Daniel end up with? My hopes for him varied as I read the book, as if I were living his dilemma.

Of course, I’m not going to spoil the ending for you. I’ll just say that in the end, I felt that Daniel deserved something more.

Fascinating book, though, and I really enjoyed it. For a discussion about Judaism and Zionism in the story, see this Guardian books blog post.

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