The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom: The Von Igelfeld Trilogy – Alexander McCall Smith


The book in one sentence: Professor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld’s ordinary, academic life is often punctuated by unexpected, hilarious adventures and mishaps – I can’t help thinking of him as the sophisticated man’s Mr Bean!

Who would you recommend it to: McCall Smith’s fans, but they shouldn’t expect a Mma Ramotswe. If you’re looking for a comedic but not too silly book, this would do quite nicely (though it can be quite unrealistic, so best to suspend your disbelief).

OK bits: I like how McCall Smith made a boring professor character have unimaginable adventures and show how someone of his stature might react. Von Igelfeld is shaped to be a relatable character, full of flaws and misgivings, despite his intelligence and the maturity expected in someone of his profession.

Boring bits: The thing is that, many things that von Igelfeld goes through is boring, but the writer writes it in such an interesting way that it’s not as entirely boring as it might be in the hands of another writer.

Verdict: It’s a funny book! In a way, von Igelfeld is the male’s Becky Bloomwood (read The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs and you’ll get what I mean). The pompous, upright Professor von Igelfeld is unlike the wise and diplomatic Mma Ramostwe or the moral and rational Isabel Dalhousie, but he is every bit as endearing as those two characters, which incidentally I do like.


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