At the villa of reduced circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith

Germans and the (slightly inferior) rest of the world. villa

In a nutshell:

Short synopsis: Professor Dr. von Igelfeld gets caught up in a nasty case of academic intrigue while on sabbatical at Cambridge. Later on he goes to Bogotá and gains political fame in a dubious manner.

Language I read the book in: English

Did I like it? Yes, but not quite as much as the previous two books

For people who… like comical stories, almost slapstick-like plots.



My thoughts: 


Prof. Dr. von Igelfeld is in Cambridge and encounters the sometimes eccentric behaviour of the British. His musings about the differences between Germans and the British and the obvious German superiority are priceless. As someone who has to deal with those cultural differences on a daily basis (and who is somewhat familiar with von Igelfeld’s thought process) I can sympathise with him. 

It was typical of Professor Waterfield’s conversation, he thought, which in his view was a loosely held-together stream of non sequiturs and unsupported assertions. That’s what came of being Anglo-Saxon, he assumed, instead of being German; the Weltanschauung of the former was, quite simply, wrong.

Later on, when he is back in Germany and talks to his colleagues:

“Everything is so irrational in that country. And the people, quite frankly, are utterly eccentric. You have to analyse their smallest pronouncements to work out what they mean. If it is bad weather they will say things like ‘Charming weather we’re having!’”

‘And yet the weather isn’t charming’, said Unterholzer. ‘Why then do they say that it’s charming?’

‘Why indeed?’ agreed von Igelfeld. ‘They often say the direct opposite of what they mean.’

‘That’s extremely strange,’ said the librarian. ‘In fact, one might even describe that as pathological.’

There you have it. The English are odd!


Not sure about this one. The beginning and reasoning behind von Igelfeld’s departure to Colombia makes sense, but then it seems to turn into some slapstick comedy – and I am not a big fan of slapstick. The way the guerillas take over the villa, how von Igelfeld becomes a sort of hero and the subsequent events seem a little far fetched. Funny, yes, but a bit too much for me. Also, the way von Igelfeld extricates himself is rather easy considering the circumstances.

All in all:

I did not like this third instalment as much as the first two, but it had its moments that were really, really good. There is one book left, which I will definitely read once I get my hands on a copy.


Cambridge, England, UK & Bogotá, Colombia


Product info and buy link :

Title At the villa of reduced circumstances
Author Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher Anchor
ISBN 9781400095094
I got this book from I swapped it
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Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

2 Comments Write a comment

  1. Hmm, sounds a bit too funny. I can sometimes handle that, it depends how it is set up from the start. I like a book comparing the English with other nationalities, Germans in this case. As I lived in England for many years, I like to read about (and recognise with a chuckle) the idiosyncrasies of the English.

    Are the earlier two books similar in that sense? (But less silly?)
    Leeswammes (Judith)’s last post ..New Arrivals!


    • Yes, they are all in that comical style. If you don’t like the quotes, then I wouldn’t recommend them to you. They are very different from his other books in that respect, I think he wanted to let his comical abilities run free…:)


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