• 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith.

    Alexander McCall Smith is probably best known for his novels based around The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency which are set in Botswana; 44 Scotland Street brings him back to his home town of Edinburgh.

    The idea for this book began as a challenge; a conversation with the editor of The Herald and A.M.S being tasked to write a serialised novel in daily instalments. This gives rise to short, well structured chapters which do not necessarily lead on one from the other, making it an ideal book to take on a journey.

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    As with other newspaper serialisations there is an element of social commentary, albeit a moderate one. I found it refreshing to read a novel where the Scots are not portrayed as gangster thugs, salacious drunks or tartan clad misers, a pleasant change from Irvine Walsh et al.

    This is gentle satire of Edinburgh middle-class life. Being familiar with Edinburgh I enjoyed recognising the landmarks and streets as well as the depictions of the foibles and prejudices of its residents many of which could be attributed to any city dwellers. The characters come to life in this tapestry of events which bring them together.

    We are introduced to the narcissistic Bruce, the fantastically pretentious Irene and her ‘gifted’ son. In many ways the heart of the book, lies in those characters we see to be wistfully chasing after that which they cannot have - Big Lou, who has lived a life without love; Pat, with her misplaced infatuation; Matthew, who cannot seem to find his place in life. And offering some light drama we have the issue of ‘the painting’.

    This book is wonderful, and everything you would expect from Alexander McCall Smith. The characters are engaging and intriguing, wittily observed through the journey of their lives and thoughts.

    For those who like books with a long, developed plot line and deeply winding subplots, this book may feel like dealing with a hyperactive child; as a story it also lacks sex, drugs and violence. However, if you like dry, well realised humour with a good pace and excellent characters, then this will make a great read.

    I would give it 4 wine glasses and 5 as a travelling companion.

    Reviewed by teacher_lady

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