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Portuguese Irregular Verbs #1

Portuguese Irregular Verbs

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Book by Alexander McCall Smith

153 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Alexander McCall Smith

565 books11.6k followers
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit him online at www.alexandermccallsmith.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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5 stars
1,673 (20%)
4 stars
2,526 (30%)
3 stars
2,749 (32%)
2 stars
1,082 (12%)
1 star
324 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,017 reviews
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,256 followers
September 28, 2012
Very witty stuff! Almost Wodehousian. Portuguese Irregular Verbs follows an uptight German Romance languages professor struggling for the respect he feels is owed him and his 1000+ page book on Portuguese irregular verbs. If you like your wordplay humor in the dry British style with a light dash of slapstick and a touch of the absurd, this is the little slice of heaven pie you've been looking for! If you have a childish love of poking fun at pompous Germans as I do, well then, have another slice!
Profile Image for Sally Linford.
65 reviews5 followers
March 29, 2008
I gave this book 5 stars based on how hard I laughed while reading--actually, listening. I mention the listening, because I am convinced that listening is the key to enjoying this pithy little book. It it one the wittiest treats I've ever read, and I was stunned when most of my book club rejected it! They were shocked at the very small contingent of admirers in the group who found it so hilarious.

I think it is just erudite enough that regular chaps like me need the benefit of the excellent reader to elucidate the humor, and oh, it is so funny. Smith's sentences amazed me, perfectly suited to his task: letting academia poking fun at itself.

"Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld often reflected on how fortunate he was to be exactly who he was and nobody else. When one paused to think of who one might have been had the accident of birth not happened precisely as it did, then, well, one could be quite frankly appalled. . . . Take his colleague Professor Dr Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer, for instance. Firstly, there was the name: to be called Detlev was a misfortune, but to add that ridiculous Mozartian pretension to it, and then to culminate in Unterholzer was to gild a turnip."

Now if you're not on the floor laughing, it's because you didn't have the benefit of the perfect German accent making it all sound so . . . academic.

Anyway, if you decide to take the leap, start with the CDs. Get that lovely accent in your head, then you can read the rest. Enjoy!
17 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2008
I really don't know what to do with these books, which are intermittantly hilarious, but so atrociously muddled in plot that they are disatisfying. Perhaps this is the point--they are post-modern reminders that life doesn't happen within a narrative arc, but to my fairly modernist mind, this is only annoying. Still the critique of academia is sharp and funny, if a little depressing.
Profile Image for Janelle.
Author 2 books16 followers
July 20, 2015
This book is really a collection of unconnected short stories, and is rather light on plot. I enjoyed it, but I won't pursue other books in this series. I do however look forward to reading some of Alexander McAll Smith's other books.

That's what I wrote yesterday.

Today I've changed my mind. In a strange way I've become quite fond of Professor Von Igelfeld. He's rather like the relative who embarrasses you every time you see him, but you miss him when he's not there. Last night I felt a little hollow when I realised I didn't have a Von Igelfeld audiobook to listen to. So not being fond of hollow feelings at bedtime I've decided that I will, after all, be adding the next book in the series to my to read shelf. I'm sure Professor Von Igelfeld will be most gratified.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
83 reviews
March 5, 2009
Bonfire of the Academic Vanities, this novel is hilarious, witty and sly beyond belief! Of all McCall-Smith's characters in all his MANY books, his portraits of this German academic, Professor Moritz-Maria von Ingelfeld, and his scholarly-impaired peers are his finest! It is laugh-out-loud amusement from beginning to end. Just when you think he can't get more outrageous, he outdoes himself. Lady detectives and Scottish philosophy journal editors don't come close to the careful-tuning and interplays of this cast.
Profile Image for Sve.
541 reviews181 followers
December 18, 2016
Много свеж и приятен хумор. Прочетох я за един следобед.
Profile Image for Joel.
52 reviews9 followers
May 24, 2012

For me this book falls into an ever-increasing cache of books that I (technically) enjoyed but would have a real difficult time recommending them to anyone.

It's kind of like golf: It's incredibly slow and there are a lot of features that you'll miss if you're not paying close attention for them. But that's what golf is. It's not designed to blow your socks off with monster-truck-smashing action (SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!); it's intended to appeal to its niche audience.

I have yet to read anything by Wodehouse so I can't compare. But if you enjoy Eddie Izzard more than Dane Cook, Fraiser more than That 70's Show, and curling more than basketball I could recommend this book to you. I really liked it but I'll have to cater to the portions of my psyche that like Vonnegut and Orwell before I'll be able to read something else by McCall Smith.
Profile Image for Lea.
442 reviews78 followers
December 22, 2015

A fast, fun little read -- I found Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld's misadventures extremely disconcerting, which (I imagine) is the entire point of the thing. This is arranged with each chapter being a different vignette in Igelfeld's life, each just a few pages long. I'm not sure if I'll visit the character again in one of his other books, but I may -- the stories have a certain charm, although a little goes a long way.
Profile Image for Desislava Filipova.
282 reviews42 followers
February 27, 2018
"Португалски неправилни глаголи" е втората ми среща с автора.
През цялото време усещах една идилична атмосфера и особена лежерност, характерни за живота на Морис Мария фон Игелфелд, изтъкнат филолог, посветил се на написването на забележителния труд - Португалски неправилни глаголи.
Отдал се на академична дейност времето преминава над книгите и в пътешествия до различни кътчета по света, за да представи и на другите своя принос към науката.
Той е чешит със своите малко старомодни разбирания за живота, честта и важността на своята професия, сякаш живее в свои собствен свят, застинал във времето, но въпреки това по особен начин е отворен към света. Той вижда живота като приложение на теорията, забавно е как наивно се опитва да играе тенис без никакъв опит, изучавайки правилата със своя приятел професор доктор Принцел, под съдийството на Унтерхолцер - комично начинание, което завършва наравно и забавлява останалите гости на хотела, които тайно наблюдават през прозорците.
И тримата са някак окопани в миналото и в спокойния живот на науката, тази наука обаче не гледа към бъдещето, а съхранява традициите и чистотата на езика, но има нещо много чаровно в тях - макар да попадат в нелепи и комични ситуации се усеща, че се наслаждават на живота.
131 reviews13 followers
May 8, 2010
Alexander McCall Smith’s Portuguese Irregular Verbs is very short and very funny. It follows a German professor of philology and some of his colleagues as they engage in that peculiar sport of academic infighting in the exclusive world of international conferences. This is not subtle humour. The core jokes are about stereotypes, funny exactly because they are spot on.

There is a sweet innocence about the hapless professors. Take for example, their decision to use the hotel tennis court, although none of them have ever played tennis.
“I’ve never played,” said von Igelfeld.

“Nor I,” said Unterholzer. “Chess, yes. Tennis no.”

“But that’s no reason not to play,” von Igelfeld added quickly. “Tennis, like any activity, can be mastered if one knows the principles behind it. In that respect it must be like language. The understanding of simple rules produces an understanding of a language. What could be simpler?”

– Portuguese Irregular Verbs, Alexander McCall Smith (2004)
Warning: If “German professor of philology” does not prime your cheek muscles to laugh, you are in trouble with this book. Philology was largely developed in Germany and the obscurity of some of the papers written about the subject reached levels of absurdity unusual even for German academicians. Then there is the whole question of German snobbishness about titles, the kind you earn ("Herr Professor Doktor Doktor Schmidt") and the kind you inherit ("Herr von Igelfeld".) The book also assumes that you understand what is innately hilarious about the subjunctive tense.

McCall Smith assumes you can understand German (and French) without needing an English translation, and that you will immediately recognize which famous work of German fiction involves a Polish youth called Tadeusz (or Tadseuz, as it was spelled in my copy). Without all that "assuming" there are still the slapstick passages about professors trying to use a textbook to learn to play tennis (and swim).
Profile Image for Nola Lorraine.
Author 1 book38 followers
February 5, 2017
Professor von Igelfeld has written the seminal book on 'Portuguese Irregular Verbs', yet hasn't received the acknowledgement he deserves. Only a handful of copies have been sold and the hundreds of remaining copies are in danger of being bought by someone who wants to use the covers to make furniture. Add to that a senior colleague who steals his work, a landlady who tosses him out of her house after reading his translation of antiquated Irish, an Indian guru who predicts a plot against him, a sad love story involving dentistry, a fencing accident that literally puts a colleague's nose out of joint and a possible radioactive experience in Venice. There's never a dull moment for the prim and proper German professor who just wants to be loved and respected.

This novella is one of Alexander McCall Smith's early books and it has a lot of charm. Some of it was hilarious, especially the chapter where he accepts a fencing duel on behalf of a non-athletic university colleague, with disastrous results. There were many places that raised a smile, though some sections weren't as interesting and dragged a little.

I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Hugh Laurie, from 'House' and 'Blackadder' fame. For most of the book he alternated between a cultured British accent for the narration and a German accent for von Igelfeld and collegaues. However, as von Igelfeld travels a fair bit, there was also call for Indian, Irish and Italian accents. Hugh Laurie's narration certainly added to the enjoyment. This was my first audiobook and it was a good introduction. Also short (3.75 hours). As each chapter covers a different episode in the professor's life, it was easy to stop and start without losing track of the plot.

Most of the humour is understated and the subject matter probably isn't everyone's cup of tea. But as a former academic myself, I appreciated a lot of von Igelfeld's dilemmas and will probably seek out the other two books in the series.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,871 reviews292 followers
July 26, 2009
I like the simplicity,
the kindness, the gentleness,
the light humor, and the respect
the author pays to each
character in this story. Smith,
author of the No. 1 Ladies'
Detective series, is not to
everyone's liking. A friend,
who I loaned one of the No. 1
series books, was irritated
with the books. "Nothing happens,"
she complained. I know that is
true. But somehow it suits me.

Profile Image for İlkim.
1,401 reviews11 followers
March 17, 2019
Aslında pek bir yazılma amacı yokmuş gibi geliyor başlarda, sonra alışıyorsunuz ve ilginç gelmeye başlıyor. Devamını merak ettirdi bana.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
308 reviews170 followers
January 21, 2011
This book was a delight. I was in somewhat of a funk before starting it, but by the time I got to Chapter 2, I was already feeling a lot lighter and happier. Alexander McCall Smith doesn't write capital-L "Literature," but that's ok because, despite being a pretty picky/high-standards reader, I don't demand every book I read to be worthy of discussion in an English class; this one is just pure fun.

Portuguese Irregular Verbs is a biting comedy along the lines of the Jeeves & Wooster series by P.G. Wodehouse, but more subtle and less slapstick-y. The main character is a pompous, self-absorbed, petty-minded German man who's a professor of linguistics (or "philology," as he still insists upon calling it, which is funny in and of itself). His only real achievement, either professionally or personally, is the publication of a textbook titled Portuguese Irregular Verbs, which we're led to believe is immensely boring, dry, and trivial, so much so that it's only sold six copies in the two years since it was published (leading his publisher to sell off the surplus inventory to a company that installs nicely-bound books into rich people's bookshelves, which of course deeply offends the professor). And yet, the professor is so inordinately proud of his silly little book and is so egotistical and competitive about his work. He's also very proud of the von in his last name, believing it makes him a member of the forgotten German nobility, and he gets hilariously bent out of shape when one of his friends presumes to add a von to his own last name.

My favorite scene is when the main character and his uptight lemon of a mentor make a trip to Ireland to try and record some authentic snippets of Irish Gaelic for a research paper. The one old man in the village who still speaks Gaelic refuses to come out of his house or invite them inside, and instead yells out a stream of curses and vulgarities at them. The main character transcribes everything the man says as quickly as possible, and they return to do this for several more days, trying to get as much data as possible. The dryness and seriousness with which the two professors approach the whole ridiculous ordeal is what really takes this scene into heights of comedic excellence.

Another great scene involves the professor fretting over how to properly address one of his friend's dogs for the first time -- first names seem too informal for a first meeting, but surely there would be confusion if he addressed the dog as Herr Unterholzer, since that's already how he addresses his friend? What is a good, rule-abiding German to do in this situation?

Oh, and there's another great scene involving a face-off between the professor and an aggressive Italian innkeeper...and another hilarious scene involving a fencing bout...but you'll just have to read the book.

This book is smart and viciously funny in its mockery of academics (and Germans), which I think any reader who has spent any amount of time in the academic world will appreciate. Highly recommended if you're feeling down.
Profile Image for Kelly H. (Maybedog).
2,588 reviews225 followers
July 14, 2009
Although supposedly a novel, it's really a bunch of loosely strung together short stories. This was nothing like Lady's Own Detective Agency, which is delightful. The humor in the book was just too subtle for me. There were a few funny parts but mostly it just seemed like a dork of a guy whose life has very little strife, making tiny things into huge things. It did feel very German, though, which was good.

I also found it really irritating when characters said something in another language but it wasn't translated. OK, I agree we American's are sorely under-educated when it comes to language but requiring the knowledge of French in order to understand the punchline of a story written in English is unfair. Since I listened to this on tape, I can't even look it up in an online translator to get the gist. (Anyone want to tell me what the woman said in French at the end of the book?) The narrator was good, though, his accents decent and pronunciation of German names sounded good to my American ears.
Profile Image for Христо Блажев.
2,250 reviews1,456 followers
September 17, 2015
Глаголите, които не промениха света: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/p...

Куриозното е, че не е чак толкова трудно да се направят паралели между главния герой в “Португалски неправилни глаголи” на Алегзандър Маккол Смит и този от “Подчинение” на Мишел Уелбек – и двамата са безполезни за когото и да било, освен себе си, интелектуалци, превзети, надути и абсурдно самомнителни. Но ако при французина всичко е смъртоносно сериозно и е писано, за да скандализира, то тук забавлението е на първо място и е писано, за да разсмива. Или както правдиво казва Бояна Ламбер, от която научих за съществуването на книгата, “усетите ли веднъж идеята на книгата, прихванете ли я, ще се сметете вероятно цял живот, защото надали в близките 100 години ще станем така духовно извисени, че да спрем да се поддаваме на осмиваните в книгата неща.”

Издателство "Еднорог"​
Profile Image for Margo Brooks.
642 reviews8 followers
November 3, 2011
Audiobook. A real giggle-fest for academics. The life and times of Professor Doctor Moritz-Maria van Igelfeld and his German colleagues is hillarious because it is so close to the truth of academia. Written by the author of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith translates his humor and perception to a completely different continent and personalities. Definately worth a read if you are overeducated, but don't take yourself too seriously.
Profile Image for Irena.
192 reviews10 followers
December 30, 2016
Лека и очарователна сатира за тесните граници на академичния свят, за етичните вътрешни борби на симпатичния немски професор от благородническо потекло Фон Игелфелд.
Алекзандър Маккол Смит продължава традициите на Дером К. Джером и Удхаус по неповторим, негов начин.
Profile Image for Carol Bakker.
1,207 reviews79 followers
April 9, 2021
I judge all McCall Smith characters by Mma Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series. If that were my sole standard, I'd likely give this two stars: it was OK. I've begun this books several times and always failed to engage. Listening on a four mile hike helped. Honestly, the audio was a big help.

It is funny. It is satire. It is short. AMS pokes fun at academics in that understated AMS way. I know people like von Igelfeld. People who think you can learn tennis from a book of rules. People who cling to titles like Professor Dr Dr Prinzel. People who passionately camp on all things esoteric.

I'm entertained enough to read/listen to the next book in the series. But I will never love the Professor Dr like I love Mma.
Profile Image for Melora.
575 reviews143 followers
April 15, 2017
A solid three stars for this short and modestly amusing book. In a series of loosely related episodes, Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld moves from small triumphs to minor defeats and embarrassments and back again. His ponderings, which tend to focus on small professional rivalries, but sometimes wander into the theological and ontological, are both very plausible and mildly repellent. Igelfeld is fussy, often petty, and occasionally vindictive. His small intrigues almost invariably go wrong for him, but still he manages to maintain an impressive and rather endearing self-confidence and optimism. He reminds me very much of Basil Fawlty, from the old BBC series, Fawlty Towers, only with unassailable equanimity replacing poor Basil's helpless fury and despair. Infuriating, obnoxious, and hopelessly prone to the most absurd misfortunes and misunderstandings, you nevertheless find yourself sympathizing with Igelfeld and hoping that things will go well for him.
Profile Image for Hákon Gunnarsson.
Author 27 books134 followers
March 1, 2019
I like this series about the German professor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld who has made his mark on the world with the great scolaly work, Portuguese Irregular Verbs which sold some 200 copies when it was published. There is a bit of Frasier in him, as well as a bit of Wodehousian humor.

The first book is his back story, student years, and so on. He is well known in the world of philology scholars, but not so much beyond that. But he is so pompous that it is completely certain that he knows the whole world should revolve around him. McCall Smith takes this aspect completely to the limit. I’m not sure if I like Igelfeld, or not, but he makes me laugh, just as Frasier did, and as Wodehouse continues to do.

This was actually the second book I read in the series, I began with book nr. 2 for some reason. I think they stand pretty well on their own. Pretty good stuff, but quite unlike his Nr. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Igelfeld goes through much more slapstick situations.
610 reviews30 followers
February 20, 2009
The book was funny due to its satire of academics. The obscurity of Portugese Irregular Verbs could certainly be matched by the obscurity of my own Ph.D. topic.
Profile Image for Ренета Кирова.
1,049 reviews24 followers
March 3, 2020
Книгата е необикновена и не мога да определя дали по-скоро ми харесва или ми е скучна, което е странно. Авторът има необичайно чувство за хумор и съм сигурна, че долових доста ирония в разказите за Фон Игелфелд.
Професор Фон Игелфелд е горд писател на "Португалски неправилни глаголи". Той е герой, сякаш застинал в едно друго време, закостенял и консервативен. В същото време е много атрактивен и попада в странни случки. Изпада в състояния на заблуда и размисли за съвсем обичайни ситуации и има навика да превръща простичките неща от живота в нещо много сложно.
Ще продължа да чета и другите части от поредицата, за да си съставя мнение, макар да подозирам, че другите поредици на автора са по-интересни.
Profile Image for Esme.
107 reviews
January 9, 2022
Funny, charming, and did I mention funny? Loved the writing style (quite similar to the no 1 ladies detective agency). Not the best book I've ever read but love Professor Moritz Maria von Igelfeld :) such a lovely book!!
Profile Image for Emilis Kuke.
96 reviews30 followers
August 1, 2021
4 su nemažu pliusu.
Tai skaičiau, tai klausiau audio variantą, kurį smagiai įskaitė Hugh Laurie. Kurinys labai lengvas, kupinas humoro apie akademikų filologų profesorių gyvenimą ir jų neretas keliones po konferencijas. Autoriaus braižas kaip visada gan panašus: geri keli samčiai humoro, žiupsnelis užuojautos, arbatinis šaukštelis kultūros, o visa kita tai kelionės, vietovės, nuotykiai ir personažų tarpusavio bendravimas.
Profile Image for astaliegurec.
984 reviews
November 18, 2014
There doesn't seem to be much of a point to Alexander McCall Smith's "Portuguese Irregular Verbs." In theory, it's supposed to be a humourous book. In reality, except for an occasional odd circumstance, it's not funny at all. Also, there's no real story here. Instead, we're treated to eight almost entirely unrelated vignettes showing us bits and pieces from an obscure academic's meaningless life. I guess this could have been almost tolerable, except for the first and last vignettes. The first is entirely out of chronological order from the rest. As near as I can tell, it should have been positioned after all the rest. Plus, it's entirely pointless. The last vignette is entirely out of character from the rest of the book. For some reason, it's about Venice's water being radioactive. I have no idea if there's any historical basis for that (I don't think there is), but regardless, why McCall Smith would have his philologist characters (historical linguistic specialists) become involved in this is beyond me. Thus, I rate the book at a Pretty Bad 2 stars out of 5.

The books in Alexander McCall Smith's "Professor Dr von Igelfeld" series are:

1. Portuguese Irregular Verbs: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment Novel (1)
2. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment Novel (2)
3. At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment Novel (3)
4. Unusual Uses for Olive Oil: A Professor Dr von Igelfeld Entertainment Novel (4)
Profile Image for Freyja.
171 reviews5 followers
November 15, 2020
Bu kitabın puanı neden bu kadar düşük???

Okuduğum en keyifli kitaplardan biriydi, rutin kalabalığımdan kaynaklı kitaplara pek boşluk ayıramadığımdan bitirmem hayli vakit aldı.

Kitap, birbiriyle bağlantılı ama her birinde farklı konuların işlendiği 8 hikayeden oluşuyor. Anlatımı sanki gerçekten hayatın içindeymişsiniz gibi, yani, bazı şeyler evet dikkatinizi çekiyor fakat her merak ettiğiniz şeyin gerçek nedenine ulaşamazsınız bazen. Anlatım çok eğlenceli ve akıcıydı, karakterler ve özellikle uzun uzun karakter isimleri -mesela Janiwandillannah Krishnamurti Singh- çok hoşuma gitti, farklı bir havası var.

Profesörler Üçlemesi olarak geçiyor bu seri, üç filolog arkadaş ve yaşadıkları olaylar gibi klişe bir tanım yapabiliriz. Bu kitapta olay akışı Profesör Doktor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld üzerinden gelişiyor, tahminimce diğer iki kitapta da diğer iki profesör ana karakter olacak şekilde işlenecek (öyle olmaya da bilir, sürprizi kaçmasın diye araştırmadım.). Her halükarda von Igelfeld sevdiğim bir karakter oldu.

Devam kitapları da elimde, hatta bu seriyi ta 2012 yılında almıştık ve o günden beri bir türlü okuma sırasına alamamıştım ama iyi ki öyle olmuş, şimdi okuduğum için mutluyum. Serinin diğer kitaplarını da mutlaka okuyacağım, hatta baskılarını bulursam yazarın diğer kitaplarını da çok merak ediyorum.
Profile Image for Kristi Lamont.
1,610 reviews48 followers
February 19, 2019
I am such a fan of Alexander McCall Smith. I believe he could probably give the phone book a nice treatment and I would enjoy reading that (wait, are there still "phone books"?). I had a good time both being entertained by and commiserating with Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology, and look forward to reading the other two books in this short series thanks to my neighbor, who recommended it. (The public library here has only the first one; the neighbor lent me the other two.) That said, I do think this series is more tragicomic than the others I've read by Our Beloved Author. I found myself feeling the professor's pain a bit in a way I haven't with the protagonists of the Dalhousie and Scotland Street series (other than, perhaps, Bertie's grandmother....). NO ONE I'M REMOTELY RELATED TO SHOULD TAKE ANY OFFENSE AT THAT LAST BIT, PLEASE. THANK YOU.
Profile Image for Peter Herrmann.
600 reviews7 followers
July 2, 2015
This book is a wonderful and humorous caricature of a pedantic, formal, well-meaning, scholar, who never seems to fully understand how the world (i.e., people) really work(s), and never achieves the thing in life most important to him: respect. In every interpersonal situation he seems to get the short end of the stick. The author creates some highly imaginative situations in each chapter. The humor isn't only re Dr. Igelfeld; the 'Germanic' personality, and, through Dr Igelfeld's travels, the 'Irish' and 'Italian' personalities receive a bit of McCall's light-hearted caricature. Each chapter can be read as a stand-alone short story however. But, they have a common theme and therefore a continuity. I look forward to reading the rest of this series. (As well as his other series).
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,017 reviews

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