I should know by now that Alexander McCall Smith will always deliver. I absolutely loved his "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series and decided to try out some of his other books. His book "44 Scotland Street" takes place in Scotland as opposed to Botswana, but other than that change, it was nearly as delightful, if not more so than his books starring Precious Ramotswe. A difference in "Scotland" is that it's more on an ensemble cast of characters instead of one person that is focused on. He takes turns telling the story from the point of view of the people who live at the address that the title comes from and has their paths intertwine. A fun concept very well done by Smith.
The coolest aspect of this book is that it was written as a serial for a newspaper. As a bonus, there are pen drawings to go with each installment. When I read the introduction explaining how it was written and for what audience, I was jealous. Why doesn't my paper do something like that? It would make me a devoted reader and subscriber. Of course, you can't guarantee it will be anything in the caliber of Alexander McCall Smith, but it would still be fun.
I love these characters. Pat, who is taking a break from university, moves into 44 Scotland Street and gets a job at an art gallery. Matthew, her employer, is a failure at everything he attempts and his father has purchased the gallery to give him something to do. Pat forces him to extend himself. Bruce is Pat's flatmate and is an unbearable narcissist. Yet, Pat finds herself attracted to him despite his abrasiveness. Domenica is the neighbor who used to be married to a Indian businessman and is now an anthropologist. She comforts Pat in her woes. Irene, Stuart and Bertie are the family downstairs and Irene is one of those mothers who controls every aspect of her child's life and determines that his intelligence makes him better than everyone else. The poor five-year-old plays the saxophone and speaks Italian. Bertie longs to play with trains and learn rugby, but alas, his mother won't ever allow it. These are the main cast of characters, but there are several other colorful side characters that are a treat to read about. Big Lou, the owner of the coffee shop and reader of Proust. Ramsey, member of the Conservative Party and lover of musicals. Angus, painter of portraits and owner of a dog with a gold tooth. And so on.
For me, this book was like eating guacamole. Deliciously tasty, feels good going down, makes you feel like you're eating something healthy and when it's all gone, you wish you had more.