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« Book Review - Dead Heat by Joel C. Rosenberg | Main| Book Review - Clawed Back from the Dead by John F. Rooney »

Book Review - 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

Category Book Review Alexander McCall Smith 44 Scotland Street

A very good friend of mine gave me a copy of 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith for my birthday this year.  As the story is set in Edinburgh Scotland, I figured it was only appropriate that I should read it while I was visiting over there.  I'll be the first to admit that this book will have its widest appeal to those who have been to Edinburgh or live there.  Because I was surrounded by Edinburgh culture as I read, I found it great fun and a very enjoyable read.

The story takes place in a building located at, appropriately enough, 44 Scotland Street.  There are a number of rather quirky characters that live in those flats, and you follow them around as their lives intersect in various ways, shapes, and forms.  Pat is one of the main characters, and she rents one of the rooms as a place to stay during a second gap year between her secondary schooling and university.  Bruce, her flatmate, is an egocentric man about town who thinks that all women swoon as he passes by.  Below them live Bertie, the five year old "prodigy" who is pushed hard by his mother Irene to accomplish great things very early in life.  All Bertie wants to do is be a normal kid.  And finally, there's Domenica, an older lady who seems to know everyone, has a mysterious past, and offers up sage advice whether asked for or not.  While only Pat and Bruce are in the same flat, everyone is influenced by each other.  Along the way, Pat gets a job at an art gallery run by a guy who knows nothing about art.  A potentially valuable painting is "stolen" by Bruce inadvertently and it has to be tracked down through a number of buyers.  Bertie's fascinated by trains, and has been kicked out of preschool for writing Italian graffiti on the bathroom stall wall.  His mother blames the teacher for not paying enough attention to her special child, and she decides to take Bertie to therapy to get him over this "rough patch."  However, in reality she's in love with the therapist and is totally out of touch with reality vs. psychological "theory."  Domenica is trying to help Pat through her infatuation with Bruce, knowing that Bruce will end up hurting her in the end.  And through it all, you get a dose of Edinburgh culture, attitudes, and history...

The story is unique in that it was first published as a serial novel in the daily newspaper The Scotsman.  Smith began with a fair amount of material stored up to get started, but by the end he was only two or three days ahead of the next episode.  As a result, people were able to contact him and influence the flow of the story.  Americans would probably liken this book to the TV series Seinfeld, a comedy show about "nothing."  There's no plot to figure out, no crime to solve, and no lives to save here.  It's really just a slice of life where we watch some very real characters go about their daily existence trying to make sense of it all.  I'm far from knowledgeable enough to say whether Smith's view of Edinburgh is spot on for how the city thinks and functions.  But I can say that reading 44 Scotland Street while I was actually "on location" made it seem very real and entertaining.  Enough so that I plan on checking to see if our local library here in the states has the follow-on installments of the series...

Comments

Gravatar Image1 - Timely - thanks...Liz bought the first four of the series at Heathrow!

Gravatar Image2 - Glad you enjoyed so much, thought it would appeal to you.

Now let's see if you were reading carefully!?...

...Where is the car?

Emoticon

Gravatar Image3 - It's parked... outside... your father knows where. :)

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