Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Alexander McCall Smith’

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

My Italian Bulldozer is a cheerful and charming story by Alexander McCall Smith which came as light relief after my struggles with heavier books recently.

The story follows a Scottish food and wine writer, Paul, who is unhappy after being dumped by his girlfriend for her personal trainer. His editor sensibly sends him to Italy to finish writing his latest book, Paul Stuart’s Tuscan Table.

After being jailed for car theft in Pisa after an incident with a bodgy car-rental business, the only vehicle Paul is able to hire is a bulldozer. Obviously he takes the bulldozer (!) and drives it through the countryside to a village called Montalcino where he is staying for the next few weeks.

While in Montalcino, Paul learns the stories of local rivalries, falls in love with a fellow American tourist, is visited by his ex-girlfriend who wants to make her personal trainer jealous, and eats all sorts of delicious foods and drinks local wines. Along the way Paul works out that life goes on after a heartbreak.

My Italian Bulldozer is a quick, happy read, much as you would expect from this author.

Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith


I’ve already read loads of Alexander McCall Smith books, possibly because he writes so many of them. While I enjoyed the 44 Scotland Street and The Sunday Philosopher’s Club stories, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series didn’t capture my interest, and I didn’t like McCall’s version of Jane Austen’s Emma at all. However, Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party goes in a whole new direction, as this book features an Irish-American main character, Fatty O’Leary.

Fatty’s nickname reflects his physical state, as he is almost morbidly obese. He is a good-natured and successful business man, who lives with his wife Betty in Fayetteville Arkansas.

Fatty and his friends in Fayetteville are more Irish than the Irish, so when Betty surprises Fatty by planning a holiday to Ireland, he is delighted.

The trip itself is a disaster though, as Fatty’s weight creates problems from the beginning. At the airport, the airline announce the plane is overloaded and request a volunteer to fly on a later flight. Other passengers immediately nominate Fatty as the obvious choice to be left behind. Although he actually makes it on the plane, he squashes the passengers to either side of him. The airline move Fatty to First Class to provide relief to the other passengers, but when the airline serve him a meal from Economy, he behaves badly and is moved back to Economy. Fatty’s former seatmates are then served First Class meals and wines, which he considers to be discriminatory.

In Ireland, neither Fatty or Betty enjoy the holiday as they had anticipated. Other guests staying at their lodgings snub them and Fatty constantly finds himself in humiliating circumstances.

Eventually, though, Fatty and Betty get through their trials and they go back to America with plenty of stories to tell their friends.

The story is obviously a comedy, although how successful it is, I don’t know. I didn’t laugh at any of the situations. The jokes are at Fatty’s expense, and while his weight issues are his own fault, and there is a moral hidden in the story, he was a good fellow and I didn’t want to laugh at him.

I don’t think Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party is one of this author’s best stories so would probably recommend other readers try a book from another series.


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