4 of 5 stars
Published April 2017
Paul Stewart writes about food and wine. He’s recently split from his girlfriend and is nursing wounds so his editor sends him to Tuscany to finish his latest book. When he arrives, there’s a major snafu with the rental vehicle. Thank heavens the man he conveniently meets on the plane has connections in high places but even that’s not enough to get him into a rental car on a busy weekend. The only thing available is a bulldozer. Really? Never mind, just go with it! He chunters down the road and up the hills and even saves a maiden in distress.
It’s a book for armchair travelers, putting you right in the heart and hill towns of Tuscany, Italy. In the book, he describes “Italian hill towns are hill towns with conviction;” and by God that’s no word of a lie. I’ve been in a few Tuscan and Umbrian hill towns perched on top of hills, with the roads snaking up the side of the steep slopes ending just below the walls of the towns where you then get to park any vehicle larger than a Smart Car and trudge up the hill into the town proper. The spectacular views are worth it and we get to see them through the Paul’s eyes.
It’s a book for foodies with mouth watering descriptions of the food and wine of the region. You might want to consider reading this book with a napkin or bib. It’s about a food writer, after all, and the focus on the tastes of Tuscany in ever delicious detail. In both cases, you might find yourself wanting to pack up and find a little inn in Tuscany though you might prefer a normal car instead of a bulldozer.
And it’s a book for romantics. Paul meets a lovely woman but there are, as always, complications. His heart might be mended but not from the direction he expects.
What I liked in particular about the book is that it’s easy to read and the author doesn’t waste words. Some books have so much extra detail that it’s like wading through sludge trying to get to the actual story. McCall Smith wastes no time getting to the point and into the plot, with enough detail, humour, and dialogue that you know who the characters are and what’s going on. Even when it’s not specifically stated, you can easily read between the lines and get it. Things are wrapped up quickly, tidily and satisfactorily. His books are enjoyable to read and inevitably will make you smile. He’s probably most famous for his Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series but his other books are equally as good and this is another winner.