My mother discovered Alexander McCall Smith years ago when the first of the Mma Ramotswe books came out – The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It was a huge international sensation, and the gentle wisdom of Mma Ramotswe got me happily through several of the follow-up books. McCall Smith has gone on to write several other series, including this, the Von Igelfield series. Years ago, I read the first of these, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, which I found quite amusing.
I think this is how I would describe most of McCall Smith’s work – quite amusing. I get the odd chuckle, or a wry smile, and that is all I need from it. The books are quick and easy to read – this one I finished in about an hour, a delightful way to spend a break in the afternoon.
At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances follows Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfield as he pursues academic recognition away from his home university in Germany. First, he takes a brief residency at Cambridge University in England, and later he heads to Colombia to receive an academic honour, only become embroiled in the revolution of the country. What is delightful about the book is that, regardless of what major events are happening, the characters are only concerned with the little things that directly surround their own existence – how to ensure best use of the bathroom, or who is sitting in which chair. Which is quite nice.