A few months ago I mentioned how much I'd enjoyed An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. It was one of my favorite reads this year, in fact. I've been on the lookout for another one by him, with no luck. When I was in Northampton recently my daughter and I spent some quality time at a bookshop. There, on a shelf of dusty mark-downs, I found Giotto's Hand. Even better it was marked $5! I quickly calculated: That's only a little over £2! What a bargain!
Giotto's Hand wasn't nearly as long or as intricate as Fingerpost; it only took a few nights, at my slow pace, to finish it. It has an entirely different feel from Fingerpost too; partly because it's—marginally—a contemporary novel. I say "marginally" since it has an old-fashioned feel to it. Part of the book is set in Italy, only they're using lira instead of euros. (The switchover occurred on Jan. 1, 1999, the year the book was published.) The characters, too, lack the cynical edge of so many modern characters. I found that refreshing.
I see that Pears has quite a few novels dealing with the art world. I'll be on the lookout for them, too, next time I visit my daughter.
Now, for a not-completely-inappropriate segue: The New York Times recently ran a feature on Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, which is where Northampton is located. It seems the area is known for its literary establishments. I visited two bookshops in Northampton (three, if you count the college bookstore) but it looks like there are plenty more in the area.
With $5 books, it's almost worth another trip over.
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