by Edith Cody-Rice
Alexander McCall Smith is back with his gentle wit poking fun at vanity, self absorption and individual peccadillos. Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Ingelfeld (translation hedgehog field), author of the scholarly and rarely consulted work Portuguese Irregular verbs, once again stumbles from adventure to adventure, shooting himself in the foot (not literally), offending potential fiancées , tumbling down mountains, gaining unexpected and undeserved acclaim, all witnessed and commented upon by the members, sympathetic and unsympathetic, of his Institute of Romance Philology, a small group of academics on the fringes of Regensburg’s University. The institute coffee room, some might say, is a fairly accurate reflection of academic coffee rooms around the world. There is the librarian Herr Huber, with one topic of conversation – his elderly aunt; the handsome successful Dr. Prinzel and the jealous, sarcastic Professor Dr. Unterholzer, We have met them before in the other books of Portuguese Irregular Verb series (with this book, now at 4 volumes) and greet them like old friends. We wonder whether Dr. McCall Smith’s former colleagues at the Scottish University of Edinburgh recognize themselves. Scholarly squabbles, injured dignities, self absorption and oblivious musings all send up the vanities of our species. This is a short book – it does not look short but the print is large and it is a delicious read for a weekend afternoon before the fire.
Unusual Uses of Olive Oil is published in Canada by Vintage Canada and is available at Mill Street Books in Almonte.