Likely Stories: My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Apr 18, 2019

Story of a man who tries to escape from his partner who has abandoned him


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Alexander McCall Smith has written dozens upon dozens of novels set in various places from Botswana to Italy.

The novel opens with a sad story.  Smith writes, “It was the first time that Paul made duck à l’orange for friends since Becky left him for her personal trainer.  Her departure—after four years of living together—had been a surprise, but not as great a shock as the discovery of her new lover’s identity.  Looking back on it, Paul had realized that all the signs had been there and might so easily have been spotted.  He felt a lingering, slightly reproachful regret: had he been less absorbed by his work, he might have noticed her indifference; had he given her more time, he might have been forewarned by her restlessness, by the occasional guilty , almost furtive look; but even had he picked this up, nothing could have prepared him for her choice of Tommy, the tattooed mesomorph with whom she suddenly went off to live” (3).  This might sound like a slow-paced beginning, but I did want to find out what happens in the end.  It did have several splashes of humor.

Smith continues, When Paul Stuart’s Bordeaux Table was published, there was no real reason for it to stand out in its discouragingly crowded field.  Food writers, it seemed, were two a penny, with every regional cuisine having been thoroughly covered from all conceivable angles.  Julia Child and Elizabeth David had been the trailblazers; those who followed were precisely that: followers.  Yet there was something about Paul’s writing that gave it particular appeal—and this was picked up by reviews” (11).

Pauls’ Editor, Gloria, was a faithful friend, and when she found out about Becky, she urged him to go to Italy to finish his book.  His first adventure after he lands in Italy takes him to the airport to pick up a rental car. 

He signs the papers, they give him the documents, and he leaves to get his car.  There is no car however, and Paul ends up in jail charged with auto theft.  He made a friend, Claudio, on the plane, who gives him his business card.  Fortunately, his friend bails him out.  Claudio has a friend who tries to help Paul get a vehicle.  He gets a vehicle.  Smith writes, “It’s a bulldozer.’  And then he added, ‘A very reliable one, you understand.’  He smiled at Paul.  ‘This bulldozer will give you no trouble at all, I promise you that’” (48).  He takes the bulldozer and drives away.  No one seems to find this unusual. 

Along the way, he meets an attractive woman and they arrange to have dinner.  Paul is smitten, but he finds out she is already partnered.  Then Becky reappears and she comes to tell Paul she is sorry.  Paul is no longer interested in Becky, and he tells her to leave.  When Becky finds Paul having dinner with Gloria, she stabs him in the hand with a fork.  Fortunately it was only a mild wound.

This tale of mild humor has quite a number of laughs.  I compared it to one of Smith’s earlier works, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was also made into a delightful film.  My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith is a pleasant story, perfect on a mild spring day.  4 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!