Romance and Construction Vehicles Under the Tuscan Sun3 min read

0
0

This content was originally published by FRANCES MAYES on 2 June 2017 | 3:00 pm.
Source link

Photo

Alexander McCall Smith

Credit
Tara Murphy

MY ITALIAN BULLDOZER
By Alexander McCall Smith
232 pp. Pantheon Books. $25.95.

According to Alexander McCall Smith’s website, he has four books coming out in 2017, plus paperbacks from last year’s hardcover publications. His first book was published in 1980. How many have followed? Even he must lose count. One of this year’s releases is the paperback edition of “Precious and Grace,” Volume 17 in the much-adored No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which propelled McCall Smith into dazzling worldwide popularity. Though this can’t be true, he seems to write a book as easily as I bake a cake.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter for exclusive deals on new books! Click here.

I have liked his Isabel Dalhousie series as much as the Ladies’ Detective Agency books. In addition to relishing the gentle sleuthing and subtle plots, I have become friends with his “traditionally built” detective Precious Ramotswe in Botswana and his philosopher detective Isabel Dalhousie in Scotland. Who wouldn’t like to have tea with either of these clever women? I recently read one of McCall Smith’s stand-alone novels, “Trains and Lovers,” in which four strangers share their private stories while their train car hurtles toward London. As a chance encounter turns intimate, we become aware how the stories we tell ourselves take form in the telling. This is McCall Smith’s genius — he makes you love the people in his books. In crass times like these, the deep civility that powers his voice is a balm. That and he makes you laugh, and how many can claim that?

Also on AoC:  Bookstore News: March 17, 2017

The main character in McCall Smith’s new book, “My Italian Bulldozer,” is a Scottish food writer, Paul Stuart, who goes to Tuscany, as many have, “in pursuit of a period of freedom.” He plans to finish his latest work, “Paul Stuart’s Tuscan Table” — and escape the detritus of a broken four-year relationship with his live-in lover, Becky, who has run off with a fitness instructor, “the tattooed mesomorph.” His taken-for-granted editor, Gloria, arranges the details of his escape.

On landing in Pisa, Paul encounters car rental complications that result in a few hours in a jail cell shared with a scary criminal comically named Occhidilupo. Released from the mix-up, and with no cars available on a holiday weekend, Paul must rely on a bulldozer for his drive to Montalcino. And so we’re off on a bumpy Tuscan idyll.

Photo

In the beautiful hill town, Paul succumbs to Brunello, savory mushrooms and wild boar with fennel. He’s determined to let “the beauty of the Tuscan countryside work its magic” on his ponderous manuscript. He begins to make friends around the piazza. Over coffee, he reads in the schoolmaster’s newspaper that the odious Occhidilupo has escaped and is believed to be hiding not far away. This part of the book is slowly paced, but when Paul, still in his bulldozer, rescues an attractive American art historian named Anna, who has run her car into a ditch, the velocity picks up, then zooms forward. Suddenly, the errant Becky reappears. Then, right on her heels, Paul’s editor arrives. And Gloria seems to have more than well-edited books on her mind.

Also on AoC:  Halcyon

The bulldozer has starring moments. It’s briefly stolen. Then no one knows how a hated wall suddenly fell in the night, restoring the view for those across the way. Lending a hand to a winemaker, Paul uses his bulldozer to move a hillock, only to discover that he’s shifted a boundary line. His friend’s vineyard of Rosso di Montalcino now qualifies for the upgraded, highly coveted Brunello status.

The countryside does work its magic. Paul transfers to his manuscript “the quiet satisfaction of life on the land, the rhythms, the sense of history — of things having been for centuries the way they were now.” His love life, in the end, comes clear. He’s smitten with Italy and thinking of a book on Venetian seafood. Smart boy.

Continue reading the main story

Source link

Comments

comments