My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith. (Romantic Novel, 2016).
I’m a big fan of McCall Smith’s charming No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, set in the small African nation of Botswana. This unrelated work, a one-shot published in the UK in 2016 and now available in the US, is almost as endearing–with enjoyable characters and a setting a bit less exotic, yet still fascinating. It takes place in the Tuscany region of Italy, in particular a smallish mountain town. Paul Stuart, a famous Scottish author who writes nonfiction about the foods and fine wines of various locales, has come there to finish his latest book–and get over being dumped my his live-in girlfriend.
As with so much of McCall Smith’s work, there’s plenty of gentle humor (not the least of which triggered when an extraordinarily messed up car rental finds him stuck with the title bulldozer as his only means of personal transportation) and plenty of local color well blended into the narrative. Paul learns a good deal about the people, the culture and the history of the area. He also has to deal with his on-the-rebound fixation on an American woman who, like him, is working on a book about Tuscany, along with the sudden appearance of his erratic ex and the editor who has secretly loved him for years without him noticing. In the process, he learns quite a bit about himself.
So who’s he going to end up with, if anyone?
I’m not telling–you’ll just have to read the book!
But I will say that the conclusion satisfied me, despite being absolutely no surprise. Along the way, you get more than a few tastes (literal as well as metaphoric) of that region of northern Italy–and it’s absolutely appropriate when you consider our frequently clueless yet good-hearted and lovable protagonist’s professional and personal inclinations.
An enjoyable book: humane and pleasing, sweet without being overpoweringly sugary.