Tartan times

18 11 2017

A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith

 

If only Pat Macgregor had an inkling of the embarrassment romantic, professional, even aesthetic that flowed from accepting narcissistic ex-boyfriend Bruce Anderson’s invitation for coffee, she would never have said yes. And if only Matthew, her boss at the art gallery, hadn’t wandered into his local bookshop and picked up a particular book at a particular time, he would never have knocked over his former English teacher or attracted the attentions of the police.

Whether caused by small things such as a cup of coffee and a book, or major events such as Stuart’s application for promotion and his wife Irene’s decision to go off and study for a PhD in Aberdeen, change is coming to serial fiction’s favourite street. But for three seven-year-old boys Bertie Pollock, Ranald Braveheart Macpherson, and Big Lou’s foster son Finlay – it also means a getting a glimpse of perfect happiness.

 

Delightful, understated and charming comedy as ever, the wonderful Scotland Street tales continue. It really is hard not to enjoy these great characters and their daily travails and if you haven’t ever tried one of these episodic yarns then they really are worth a go.

 

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Number 10 Scotland Street

14 05 2016

The Revolving Door of Life (The 44 Scotland Street Series Book 10) by Alexander McCall Smith

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For seven-year-old Bertie Pollock, life in Edinburgh’s most celebrated fictional street has just got immeasurably better. The enforced absence of his endlessly pushy mother Irene – currently consciousness-raising in a Bedouin harem (don’t ask) – has manifold and immediate blessings: no psychotherapy, no Italian lessons and no yoga classes. Bliss.

For Scotland Street’s grown-ups, life throws up some new dilemmas. Matthew makes a discovery that could make him even richer but also leaves him worried. Pat makes one that could make her poorer and her father miserable – unless that uber-narcissist, Bruce, can help her out. And the Duke of Johannesburg, we discover, isn’t exactly who he says he is.

From what happens behind Edinburgh Airport’s luggage carousel to Machiavellian manoeuvrings at the Association of Scottish Nudists, Alexander McCall Smith guides us through the brighter, lighter and frankly unexpected side of Edinburgh life. As ever with his 44 Scotland Street series, his readers will make their own discovery: that its blend of wit and wisdom mark it out as a comedic tour de force.

Can’t quite believe we’re already at number 10 in this series. Starting as a weekly serial in the Scotsman this McCall Smith series really has taken on a life of its own. I’ve enjoyed every one of these and the latest one really is one of the best with this being a particular highlight:

“Angus had seen such irritation bring to an untimely end the marriage of a friend who, having married for the first time at forty-three, had found his new wife’s minor idiosyncrasies to be unbearable. The straw that eventually broke the back of that marriage had been her insistence on pronouncing Gullane as it was written, rather than as Gillane, which was what it really was – a highly divisive issue in Scotland, even if not one that might be expected to bring a marriage to an end.”

Having grown up there I can, of course, confirm that the correct pronunciation is as it is written.

Fun for all the family.

four stars





Scotland’s streets

1 03 2014

Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith

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Have recently rattled through a subset of the full Scotland Street series:

The Importance of Being Seven:

Despite inhabiting a great city renowned for its impeccable restraint, the extended family of 44 Scotland Street is trembling on the brink of reckless self-indulgence. Matthew and Elspeth receive startling – and expensive – news on a visit to the Infirmary, Angus and Domenica are contemplating an Italian ménage a trois, and even Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery. But when Bertie Pollock – six years old and impatient to be seven – mislays his meddling mother Irene one afternoon, a valuable lesson is learned: that wish-fulfilment is a dangerous business.

Bertie Plays the Blues:

Even down to its well-set Georgian townhouses, Edinburgh is a hymn to measure and harmony. But on Scotland Street, domestic accord is in short supply. Matthew and Elspeth welcome three new arrivals, though the joys of multiple parenthood are somewhat lost due to sleep deprivation and the difficulties of telling their brood apart. Angus and Domenica are to marry, and Domenica has ambitious and disturbing plans for their living arrangements, especially when it appears that Antonia, in Italy recuperating from Stendhal Syndrome, may not return. And little Bertie, feeling blue, puts himself up for adoption on eBay. Can Edinburgh’s most deliciously dysfunctional residents forsake discord and learn to dance to the same happy tune?

Sunshine on Scotland Street:

Scotland Street witnesses the wedding of the century of Angus Lordie to Domenica Macdonald, but as the newlyweds depart on honeymoon Edinburgh is in disarray. Recovering from the trauma of being best man, Matthew is taken up by a Dane called Bo, while Cyril eludes his dog-sitter and embarks on an odyssey involving fox-holes and the official residence of a cardinal. Narcissist Bruce meets his match in the form of a sinister doppelganger; Bertie, set up by his mother for fresh embarrassment at school, yearns for freedom; and Big Lou goes viral. But the residents of Scotland Street rally, and order – and Cyril – is restored by the combined effects of understanding, kindness, and, most of all, friendship.

With great characters and entertaining plotting this really is a series which keeps on giving. Originally published as weekly instalments in the newspaper (and they may still be) they retain a feel of a series of interconnecting episodes. If you’ve not read any of these before then it’s time to catch up with all of the Scotland Street fun and games.

stars-3-5





More Scotland Street diversions

28 12 2007

Love Over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith

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Another set of entertaining (if undemanding) tales from the overlapping lives of residents (and former occupants) of 44 Scotland Street. Little six-year old Bertie is probably the star performer on his trip to Paris and Domenica’s attempts to study pirates in Malaysia are amusing too but all of the characters exhibit a degree of charm.

Nice and easy does it.

3 star








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