Unusual Uses for Olive Oil: A Von Igelfeld Novel by Alexander McCall Smith
|Unusual Uses for Olive Oil: A Von Igelfeld Novel by Alexander McCall Smith|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: These aren't my favourite AMS characters, but this is still, nonetheless, an amusing read.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: October 2011|
|Publisher: Abacus (Little, Brown)|
|External links: Author's website|
Following on from The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom which was a compilation of three shorter volumes, this book sees Professor Dr Von Igelfeld still dealing with his academic colleagues but also with the prospect of a love interest, a recently widowed lady, Frau Benz, who has inherited the large Schloss in Regensburg. Is love in the air? Or will his arch rival, Unterholzer interfere once again?
I am a huge fan of Alexander McCall Smith's writing, but I have to say that Von Igelfeld's earlier adventures never really hit the spot for me. When trying to tempt someone to try one of his books I never mention them, and I found them rather dry and difficult to read. This recent episode was much more readable I felt, and it isn't absolutely necessary to have read the earlier books since I, for the most part, had forgotten the characters and previous events but got along just fine.
Poor, awkward Professor Dr Dr (honoris causa) (mult.) Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld. He's so pompous and clueless. The author of the scholarly book Portugese Irregular Verbs he resides in the musty world of German academia alongside of his colleagues, Prinzel and Unterholzer and with the terrifyingly dull librarian, Herr Huber, always around too. I think one of the main reasons I struggled with the earlier stories is that von Igelfeld is really rather unlikeable. He's like some strange, gangling Mr Bean character, falling into farcical situations and seemingly blind to his personal failings and inadequacies so therefore rendering himself ridiculous at any given moment. He leaves me feeling awkward, and often the funny moments also have that discomfort about them too.
The world of academia is well portrayed, with much of the gentle humour surrounding the distinct lack of students at The Institute of Romance Philology where von Igelfeld and his colleagues work. There is also the humorous situation of the blind date that Prinzel's wife decides to arrange for von Igelfeld. Frau Benz, recently widowed, is deemed a potential victim - I mean partner - for von Igelfeld and he, of course, focusses on the fact that she has inherited the local Schloss rather than wondering exactly what sort of engineering her late husband was involved in. They get on very well, surprisingly, but at the back of your mind as your read you're aware that von Igelfeld hasn't made the connection of Frau Benz's name and the well known German car manufacturer, and so it is surely only a matter of time before disaster occurs and von Igelfeld offends her irreparably.
Having worked as a librarian myself for many years I do prickle a little when librarian characters in books tend towards the stereotypical. However, I'm going to forgive AMS this once because Herr Huber, who seems able only to ever speak of his aunt who is in a local nursing home, is rather funny and strangely endearing and I liked very much that he is rewarded with his own happy ending in this story. Whilst this happiness is being enacted von Igelfeld is, of course, landing himself in yet another utterly ridiculous situation, but although frequently unbelievable I did find most of his antics amusing. As in all of AMS' books, there is nothing horrid here. No crude jokes or bad language. The humour is subtle, witty, and the characters are intriguing and unusual. This series is still not my favourite, but I felt this volume wasn't as dry as the previous stories and I enjoyed it much more than I'd expected to. You may want to borrow it, before you buy it, to be sure it's to your taste, but hopefully you'll enjoy poor Professor Hedgehog-field's adventures, even if you don't much like him!
For something rather different, but also looking at academia and satirising society you might like to try Nice Work by David Lodge
You can read more book reviews or buy Unusual Uses for Olive Oil: A Von Igelfeld Novel by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Unusual Uses for Olive Oil: A Von Igelfeld Novel by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon.com.
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