Book Review: The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith

To start off my 2018 reading year, I chose this novel based on its World War II setting and its quirky title.

Alexander McCall Smith is a prolific writer of adult and children's fiction, and non-fiction. He is the author of a number of mystery series, his most successful being The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. He has also written several standalone novels, of which The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse is his latest.

Synopsis - From the Back Cover

World War II. England is under threat, and everybody has a part to play, no matter how small. Val works on a farm as a Land Girl, supplying produce to the local air

force base where she meets an American aviator. Their lives become intertwined, as they do their bit in the effort to combat the Nazi menace. Even Val's sheepdog, the curiously named Peter Woodhouse, is caught up in the conflict when he becomes the Americans' mascot.

A small cog in the vast machine of war, Peter Woodhouse brings together two men on the opposite sides of history. An unlikely POW and suddenly imperilled, he inspires a German soldier to an act of humanity in inhumane times. From this, there develop friendships that survive the drama and cruelty of the war and its immediate aftermath, echoing all the way into the Europe of our own times.

My Thoughts

Alexander McCall Smith has a very deceptive style of writing. Light and informal it immediately drew me into the story. Not until the end did I realise that I'd been cleverly manoeuvred through some serious issues and, despite the upheavals and tragedies the characters experienced, was left with a sense of well-being.

While Val and Mike's romance was endearing and central to the novel, it was the German soldier Ubi's story and the aftermath of World War II in Europe that I found the most interesting. From a rural England setting, McCall Smith takes us on a journey through a devastated Europe, homing in on the homeless, the starving, the displaced and the Berlin Airlift, where a friendship is rekindled.

There was a great mix of characters, but the style and length of the story meant that they weren't all fully developed. That said, there were two that stood out for me: Archie, the farmer for whom Val works and Willy, the simple-minded but kind-hearted young man who is responsible for bringing Peter Woodhouse into their lives.

This is a simple tale that still managed to convey the horrors and futility of war while championing forgiveness, love and friendship. A quick and easy read, The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse was an excellent choice to start off my reading year.


  1. this sounds enjoyable. I'll look for it!

  2. This book sounds brilliant and I will look for it. I have read about 20 of his books and can't imagine how he can write so many and so well.

    1. I was amazed at how many books this author had written.

  3. I do not like this author's style at all, so I doubt I'll read this book, but thanks anyway!

    1. His style is not for everyone. While I enjoyed Peter Woodhouse, I'm not tempted by his series. Thanks for reading my review.