Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party

A Darling Man.

Review: Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party: Alexander McCall Smith.


The incomparable Bernard Levin once wrote that when he died, they would find Kiri Te Kanawa’s name inscribed on his heart. A beautiful sentiment, and one I share in regard to Mr Alexander McCall Smith( who according to the most well read woman I know we must call Sandy). Some one that can write about life with such a light heart in such a sad world and with such perception and compassion should be canonized- there we are St Sandy…except of course, he would not like that. So plain Sandy it will have to be.

Urbane, witty, highly intelligent and utterly charming is our Sandy McCall Smith. And his works reflect this. Dear Maman has fallen head over heels, and sleeps with a copy of The Lost Art of Gratitude under her pillow, though I am getting a bit sick of her constant references to Isabel Dalhouise’s sainted American Mother. The hint has been noted Maman Dearest and I’m not falling for that one .

Having recently read The Forever Girl and fallen in love all over again( one of my favourite penguins said that for her the book was about constancy, such an accurate assessment I almost threw in my book reviewing towel then and there) , I could hardly wait to pick up Fatty O’Leary.

And so now I am sad. Cornelius O’Leary is a totally decent, kind ,good, overweight, American man, ‘ a darling man’ and his adventures while visiting Ireland, a trip organized by his equally lovely wife Betty to celebrate his 40th Birthday are the focus of this, the first in what one imagines to be a new series, by McCall Smith. Sandy is compassionate, the baddies get their comeuppance and the goodies end up back on their porch in Arkansas. Darling Sandy, please leave them there in peace.

I’ve spent days chewing over why this book, for me, is such a disappointment, and have come to the conclusion that it is simply that these characters are too far from what McCall Smith knows. When he writes with his heart, I hear angels singing( see my review of What WH Auden Can Do For You). Not here.Thankfully I am also in love with Sebastian Faulks and he is the editor of A Broken World, an anthology of words about The Great War. And that Dear Reader, is what I will tell you about next.


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