Book Review: My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Title: My Italian Bulldozer
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Abacus
Publication date: April 4, 2017
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The best-selling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series returns with an irresistible new novel about one man’s adventures in the Italian countryside.

Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded, until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer.

With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts the offer, and as he journeys (well, slowly trundles) into the idyllic hillside town of Montalcino, he discovers that the bulldozer may be the least of the surprises that await him. What follows is a delightful romp through the lush sights and flavors of the Tuscan countryside, as Paul encounters a rich cast of characters, including a young American woman who awakens in him something unexpected.

A feast for the senses and a poignant meditation on the complexity of human relationships, My Italian Bulldozer is a charming and intensely satisfying love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of a fresh start. 

Once again, a book group selection is responsible for me reading a charming book that I probably never would have encountered otherwise. Yay, book group!

In My Italian Bulldozer, writer Paul Stuart heads to Tuscany for a few weeks of rest and relaxation while finishing his newest foodie book. His girlfriend of four years has just dumped him, and he’s in need of a change of scenery, so what better choice than to head to the site of the delicious food and wine he’s writing about?

The trip does not go as planned. Immediately upon arrival, he has some rather comical mishaps with the rental car company. When no cars are available, a new acquaintance connects him with a commercial vehicle rental agency, which is able to offer him the only rental they have: a bulldozer. With no other option, Paul sets off on the road to Montalcino, the rural hilltop village where he’ll be staying, enjoying the vantage point of his rather odd ride.

Once settled in Montalcino, Paul begins to meet the locals, who seem to take a shine to him right away. He quickly becomes a regular at the coffee houses and restaurants, and also meets an American woman who sparks his interest. Picnics, meals, and all sorts of outings via bulldozer make up his days, and he also makes great progress with his book.

My Italian Bulldozer isn’t exactly a plot-heavy book. It’s a peaceful, calming story about a man’s encounter with a quieter way of life, giving him time to think and reflect on what really matters and what he wants. It’s sweet, charming, and quirky, a quick read, and altogether a very good book for the holiday season.

Describing a book as “nice” doesn’t really sound like great praise, but this book really and truly is nice. The people are sympathetic and likable, the setting is lovely, the food and wine sound delicious, and the adventure is on the mild side. I had a nice time reading My Italian Bulldozer. It didn’t make me work hard to enjoy it, it went by fast, and was enjoyable all the way through.

Perhaps not (definitely not) the most exciting book I’ve read all year, but I’m glad I read it, especially as a way to cleanse my palate after some heavier, less pleasant reading. I’d recommend My Italian Bulldozer as a sweet diversion for when you’re looking for a pick-me-up.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

  1. I’ve read several books by this author and they are refreshingly sweet and nice stories. Not something I would read all the time, but a nice change of pace😁

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