When I stumbled upon this book from one of my daily book finds – I think it might have been Good Reads – the title was so odd that I nearly ignored it. And yet, the title was so odd that I couldn’t help but pay attention.
And I am very familiar with author Alexander McCall Smith, mostly from his Mme Ramotswe books featuring the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency located in Botswana, Africa. As far as I’m concerned, Smith’s books feature some of the most endearing characters in all of bookdom. Precious Ramotswe is the Father Tim (of Mitford fame) of Africa.
But seriously? An American man who drives around Italy in a bulldozer?
Paul Stuart is a world renown and respected cookbook writer who is in a slump because his girlfriend left him for her personal trainer. To help get him back on his feet, his long-time friend and agent sends him to Italy to research his next cookbook about Tuscan cooking.
Alas, when he arrives at the rental car agency near the Tuscan village of Montalcino, where he is to spend the next few months researching food and wine, he learns that all of the cars are rented out. He is frustrated and ready to go back home, when he learns of the availability of a bulldozer.
Yes, a bulldozer. A big yellow bulldozer.
Not wanting to return home, Paul makes the admittedly unlikely decision to go ahead and rent the bulldozer, and begins a set of adventures in which he learns to slow down, love more, enjoy great food and wine, and form unlikely friendships.
I found the book to be utterly charming. There are no great morals or lessons. It’s just a snapshot of Italian life and what you really need from your friends, as seen from the upper berth of a bulldozer. Bill and I have spent considerable time in Tuscany, and even visited Montalcino (where our GPS mistakenly had us drive to our next destination through a vineyard).
It is a quick read, just this side of a novella. And I smiled throughout.