Posts tagged ‘Alexander McCall Smith’

Let’s all go to Tuscany, shall we? – “My Italian Bulldozer” by Alexander McCall Smith

I cannot say enough about how much I loved this book.  It is just…well, lovely.  As always Smith has such a style that  makes me walk away feeling lighter and happier.  His writing is not shallow but it has a quality that allows him to address some fairly tough things with self-effacing humor and perspective which, if we are honest, is something we could all use a lot more of in our lives.

We meet Paul Stewart, a writer of famous lifestyle-foodie books, at the point of his life where he finds himself alone after a four year relationship has ended. It seems his girlfriend, Becky, enjoyed her work-outs with her personal trainer a bit too much and has left him for work-outs of an even more personal kind.  Paul with the help of his editor, Gloria, decides that the best way to move-on is to head to the small Tuscan town of Montalcino and finish his latest book about food in Tuscany.

After landing in Pisa, with a few mishaps (including a brief stay in prison), Paul finds himself in need of a rental car with none available.  Luckily, he finally finds a vehicle.  So, of course, Paul heads to Montalcino in his rented bulldozer.  Yes, even he admits it is ridiculous. Unknown-1.jpeg

Paul then spends  his time in Montalcino writing and meeting the quirky locals – the local wine-maker who is depressed about land borders, the local school principal who is spending his summer reading the paper at the local cafe and judging the youth who walk by, the hotel proprietor who knows everything about everyone.

This story is not brilliant in and of itself but it is the experience of reading at its best.  Everything Paul sees and eats and experiences you long to be a part of.  I am bound and determined to get to Montalcino and eat their mushrooms, drink their wine and stare out on the countryside while I write my world-renowned books. Okay so the last part about writing not reasonable but the rest can happen.   You also love all of the characters because they are just the kind of people you want to meet on vacation so you have stories to tell later.  I was sad when I had met all of the characters and was coming to the last few pages.

I read somewhere that Smith’s books are palate cleansers because they are light and easy reads.  This is an underestimation of what Smith does.  His books feel like palate cleansers because he writes deftly and doesn’t need a lot of heavy plotting and escapades to make his stories beautiful.  Whether he is writing about Botswana or Scotland or Italy, he clearly understand people and culture in way that brings the reader along.  He has a humor in a lot of his writing that matches P.G. Wodehouse wit for wit but never in a way that feels too snarky.

I also read a review of Smith in the Times that said that he writes books as easily as baking a cake because he writes so many.  The best part of this for readers is that means getting through all of his books will take some time.  And it is always time well spent.

Now all of that said, where shall we stay in Tuscany?

montalcino-wedding.jpg

June 11, 2017 at 6:45 pm Leave a comment

The stories we tell on trains – “Trains and Lovers” by Alexander McCall Smith

Trains and Lovers” by Alexander McCall Smith, Published in 2013. 

This book is beautiful.  It is the kind of book you end with a sigh and a happy heart.

It is a simple story.  Four strangers, riding the train from Edinburgh to London.   They are sitting two on each side of the coach, facing each other.  And somehow a story starts.  The simple “why are you going London?” turns into a story about a possible career in both art and love.  Then everyone has a story, some outwardly expressed and some revisited internally.  But all of the stories are about love and how it has brought them to this particular train, this particular path.

“Trains are everyday, prosaic things, but they can be involved in, be the agents of, so much else, including that part of our human life that for so many far outweighs any other—our need for love—to give it and to receive it in that familiar battle that all of us fight with loneliness.”

Trains can make us wistful. They take us away from something. They take us  towards something else.  They move on a set path that does not change.  You can board trains in snow or rain or beautiful sunshine.  Your lover can wave to you from the platform.  You can see the people you love slowly disappear as the train pulls away.  Trains rock back and forth, in a consoling manner as you watch the landscape change.   Trains make us wistful for good reason. They are not unlike love really.

Smith is a brilliant writer. He weaves the story of the train not just into the actual setting of the characters telling their stories but the trains play a part in each story as well.  The stories are not scintillating or shocking or laced with suspenseful moments. They are sweet, charming stories. They are the stories of everyday lives that could be told on a train to a stranger, who can then nod and add their own story.  Smith has the gentle touch of an old storyteller who knows what is important in life.  And his wisdom makes his writing beautiful  – “We live and breathe love. Loving someone is the good thing we do in our lives.”

English: Train leaving Waverley Station (Edinb...

English: Train leaving Waverley Station (Edinburgh). Nederlands: Vertrekkende trein uit Waverley Station (Edinburgh). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

November 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm Leave a comment


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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