My Italian Bulldozer: A Novel

by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardcover, 2017

Call number




Knopf Canada (2017), 240 pages


"From one of our most beloved and best-selling authors: a hilarious new stand-alone novel about one man's misadventures in travel and romance in the Italian countryside. When writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to finish his already overdue cookbook, he expects it to be the perfect escape from stressful city life. But when he arrives, things quickly take a turn for the worse. His hired car is nowhere to be found, and with no record of a reservation at the car-rental counter and no other cars are available, it appears that Paul will be stuck at the airport--that is, until an enterprising stranger offers him an unexpected alternative: a bulldozer. With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts, and so begins a series of laugh-out-loud adventures as he trundles through the Tuscan countryside. A story of unexpected circumstances and making the best of what you have,My Italian Bulldozeris a warm and witty read guaranteed to put a smile on your face"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Clara53
A light and enjoyable read. Great sense of humor, as always. And as usual, apart from the main plot ( which in itself is a curious one, with slightly ridiculous circumstances), McCall Smith ventures with abandon into interesting ruminations on life, history, politics, art and what not.​ As my friend once pointed out, "there is always a lesson to be learned" in each of McCall Smith's books...… (more)
LibraryThing member whitreidtan
Alexander McCall Smith has made a name for himself writing entertaining, gentle fiction. His most well known is probably his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series but he has several other delightful series as well. On occasion he writes stand-alone novels as well. Whether he's writing mystery or general fiction, series or stand-alone, McCall Smith has a certain feel, an amiable, calm, philosophical sensibility to his books. His latest, a stand-alone novel titled My Italian Bulldozer, is a lovely and thoughtful look at love and the sometimes incongruousness of life in the Tuscan countryside.

When Paul Stewart's girlfriend of four years runs off with her personal trainer, he is gutted, retreating from everything and everyone. Only when he almost misses the deadline for his latest food and wine book does he snap out of it. Because Paul is a famous writer and his long-suffering editor, Gloria, isn't going to let him be derailed by a relationship she didn't think much of. Deciding to immerse himself in the food and wine of the place he's writing about, Paul heads to a small hill town in Tuscany to complete his book. Getting there won't prove easy though as a complicated misunderstanding sees the kindly and sad Paul arrested for car theft after landing in Italy. Once he is released from jail, the only way to get himself to his destination is by rented bulldozer, which will prove a slow but interesting way to travel. Once he reaches the town of Montalcino, the accommodation and peaceful acceptance that characterized his trip remains as he parks his odd means of transportation in the car park on the edge of town.

The start of this book makes the reader suspend disbelief. A rental bulldozer? Really? But somehow McCall Smith makes this work and even uses this bumbling, almost ridiculous beginning to set the stage and thoroughly draw his main character's persona. Paul is a thoughtful and considerate, curious and lovely character who makes friends with everyone around him. The people he encounters are quirky and appealing and the countryside comes alive in this comfortable and charming read. The ending is rather predictable but it is the one that the reader wishes for Paul so although it isn't a surprise, it feels appropriate. Those who enjoy the affable charm of McCall Smith's previous books will find this short, quick read similarly pleasing in tone and narrative pacing. It's a light and happy read and might even make you wish you had your own rental bulldozer.
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LibraryThing member brangwinn
Delightful. McCall Smith can always add a smile to my day as I read his latest book. Imagine going to Italy, finding the car that you had rented is not available, and being forced to use a bulldozer as your vehicle. As always, McCall makes the plot work and as the story illustrates you accept what life gives you, and in the case of a rented bulldozer, you can change life for several people. McCall Smith’s description of small town Italian life rings true with his careful seasoning of variety of characters in in this book about a food writer.… (more)
LibraryThing member SheilaDeeth
A chapter of accidents, a passage of misunderstandings, a good-natured journey to the hearts of Italy, wine and man, and an enticing blend of atmosphere, humor, bemusement, amusement and romance, My Italian Bulldozer is highly recommended.

As usual with Alexander McCall Smith’s books, there’s a fine cast of off-beat characters, a wealth of crazy situations—starting of course with the eponymous bulldozer, which begs the question (and will have you believing the answer), who rents bulldozers to tourists?

Love, like fine wine, is many splendored, may be inconveniently labeled, and deserves a serious chance in this novel. There’s a pleasing feel that all necessary second chances will somehow appear, and an enjoyable pact between reader and author that the glorious countryside will be enjoyed, as will the food; disbelief will be most willingly suspended and rewarded during the process.

Disclosure: I borrowed it from a friend and I love it!
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LibraryThing member AuthorMarion
What does a bulldozer have to do with food? The answer lies here, in My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall-Smith.

When your significant other of four years runs off with her personal trainer what do you do? If you’re Paul Stuart, a foodie and a writer, then you mope about for quite some type, alienate most of your friends, and come alarmingly close to missing the deadline for your next book. That is what happens to the character of Paul Stuart. After paying a visit to his confidant and editor, Gloria, Paul takes her advice and sets out to finish his book – in the Tuscan region of Italy. What begins as a calming sojourn quickly takes an interesting turn shortly after his arrival in Pisa when Paul tries to find his rental car in the lot. It is missing. When he complains of not being able to find it, he is arrested for car theft since he’d already signed the forms saying that he’d accepted possession of the car. He eventually gets sprung out of jail only to find there are no longer any cars available for rent. But he is offered a bulldozer that is available. He agrees to the rental and sets off from his lofty position in the dozer’s cab for his ultimate destination of Montalcino. Thus begins an adventure that can only be told by the indomitable Alexander McCall Smith.

Smith’s books are a commentary on life in general and remind the reader of those basic precepts of life that we tend to forget or ignore from time to time (as is evidenced by his beloved other series). Here, we are eased into the relaxing lifestyle of the Tuscani people. The story is a narrative ode to the sights, sounds, smells, and loves of Italy in this small cross-section of the country. The characters are well-developed and quirky just the way folks are in real life. And when Paul finally realizes that the love of his life has been in front of him the whole time, well, it makes the story most satisfying indeed.

An easy read that will wrap itself around you in a comforting embrace, it is a great story. Another star in the McCall-Smith firmament.
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LibraryThing member Tea58
Because of a bulldozer, it's absurd and delightful and loving. Paul, from Scotland, arrives in Italy. Little does he expect that transportation will become his major problem. Thank God for people who own and drive bulldozers. Also, thank goodness there are people who are willing to try something new. They aren't afraid to take a risk.

Over and over I told myself this isn't a memoir it's a novel. I now desire a bulldozer for a Christmas gift. With that extravagant wish put aside, I have loved meeting Paul and his friends. At one point, he is a man with not a woman in sight. In the next moment, there are far too many ladies grabbing for his attention. Paul's heart is huge, and so he never can throw any one over. No matter how aggravating he finds something in a person to love and cherish.

With unexpected misfortunes, he doesn't give up. He makes the best of every situation. Paul also knows not only about mushrooms he is able to gather the best from conversations. In "My Italian Bulldozer" by Alexander McCall Smith, the conversations are like vintage wine from Tuscany. I wanted to swirl the conversations in a wine goblet and sniff the richness of the grapes. Of course, there is Italy with its magic: Caravaggio, Montalcino and the Pisa.

The novel is all about love whether it is given back in a package of your choosing or given back looking totally different from what you would ever expect. The Italians are friendly, and there is always salami, olives and best of all Art.
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LibraryThing member triscuit
McCall Smith always a fun read and this one is set in Italy which makes it all the better.
LibraryThing member jeanbmac
Different locale, but same charming writing. Loved it.
LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Book on CD performed by Sir Timothy Ackroyd

After food writer Paul Stuart’s girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer, his editor, Gloria, suggests that he go to Tuscany for an extended stay to research and write his new book about the food and wine of the region. All is arranged, but a snafu at the rental car agency results in his having to take a bulldozer. Things could be worse; though he’s not sure how. Great food, plenty of vino, and your own bulldozer – sounds like a recipe for success! Thus begins this delightful adventure romance in the Tuscan hills.

Smith is fast becoming my go-to author whenever I feel the need for a gentle humorous break from the realities of life. I love his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, and have become a fan of his gentle style of writing. Like most of his novels, this one is full of the drama of everyday life. Not much happens, but somehow major life decisions get made. Along the way are scenes of heartache, humor, friendship, and romance.

Life is somehow better when it does NOT going according to plan. A totally satisfying novel that is just pure enjoyment.

Timothy Ackroyd does a marvelous job of narrating the audiobook. He has good pacing and I loved the way he voiced the Italians! I could practically see his arms waving about for emphasis.
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LibraryThing member DubaiReader
I really enjoyed the first book of the Ladies' Detective Agency, but the second and third didn't have the same impact for me, so I haven't persevered with them. The Professor von Igelfeld series was a huge disappointment, so I wasn't particularly excited when my book group decided they wanted to read an Alexander McCall Smith book because the author was coming for our Lit Fest. It had to be a stand-alone book, and his most recent non-series novel was My Italian Bulldozer. I listened to a sample of the audio version but found the narrator irritating, so I went ahead with the book.

It started out reasonably well, with cookery author, Paul Stewart, heading for Italy to finish his overdue book on Italian cookery. He has a somewhat dubious encounter at the car rental office on arrival in Pisa, that results in him hiring the only remaining vehicle in town, a bulldozer. The story continues on from there, with one crazy situation following on from the previous, in quick succession.

This is definitely a book for fans of farce, which I certainly am not.
It got pretty much slated by my book group, so at least I was not alone. It was hard to discuss because there really wasn't anything of substance in the story. The most interesting part related to the random positioning of boundaries that decreed whether given a wine was entitled to a prestigious title or not.

Did it make me want to take a trip to Italy? Yes, it was pretty atmospheric.
Will I read any more from this author? Probably not, sadly.

To top it off, Mr McCall Smith got stuck in the snow in UK and didn't make his scheduled session anyway!!

Previously read:
The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency (5 stars)
Tears of the Giraffe (3 stars)
Morality for Beautiful Girls (3 stars)

The 21/2 Pillars of Wisdom (1 star)
At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (1 star)
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LibraryThing member dhinden
A very nice fable with a rollicking opening chapter where the narrator bemoans the woman who has left him for her personal trainer. There’s a genuinely LOL passage where our nerdy food writer imagines the professional body of the professional trainers’ association meeting to chastise the trainer for becoming involved with one of his clients.

The setting moves to Rome, where our hero improbably is inveigled into renting a bulldozer and then too Montalcinoo in Italy where he shall spend a month writing.
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LibraryThing member TheTreeReader
I’ve known about Alexander McCall Smith for a very long time. I’ve also been wanting to read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series for a very long time. I still haven’t got around to it. However after winning My Italian Bulldozer and enjoying it as much as I did, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is now higher up on my wish list.… (more)
LibraryThing member ChazziFrazz
This is a stand alone book by Alexander McCall Smith. I've read a few from his Ladies' Detective series and from is 44 Scotland Street, and one other stand alone. This one I liked the best.

Food writer, Paul Stuart, is suddenly single. His girlfriend of four years leaves him for her personal trainer. He is in the middle of writing a book on the food and wine of Tuscany, so his editor suggests that he take a trip there and finish his book. He can enjoy the countryside, the food and the wine, and also be away from his ex.

Reservations are made, tickets bought, but when he arrives he finds that the rental car his was to have isn't there. Added to that is the rental agent decides that Paul has stolen the car as he had signed the paperwork before finding there was no car! Italian buraucracy at its best. A night in jail with a known crazy criminal does not make for a great beginning.

The solution to the transportation problem? A bulldozer! Yup, Paul Stuart is given a bulldozer for transportation. This is arranged by a gentleman he met on his flight over. Someone who becomes part of Paul's circle of friends while in Tuscany. When in Italy....

This is just a start to his adventure. Not only is the countryside beautiful and the food is great, he also meets some unusual people. He finds that people aren't always in a rush. That people can be civil and polite...even to a person driving a bulldozer.

Being Paul speaks Italian, he makes a number of friends in the town of Montalcino. There is Professor Silvio Rossi - the gentleman who helped him get the bulldozer. Winemaker Tonio and his brother Father Stefano. The American Art Historian Anna, who stirs up some emotions inside Paul, and more.

It is a book to be read at a easy pace and savoured. Would loved to have sampled some of the wine and food described!
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