44 Scotland Street - Alexander McCall Smith

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44 Scotland Street - Alexander McCall Smith

The story revolves around the comings and goings at No. 44 Scotland Street, a fictitious building in a real street in Edinburgh. Immediately recognisa...

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Review of "44 Scotland Street - Alexander McCall Smith"

published 24/04/2007 | Looby5
Member since : 09/11/2003
Reviews : 56
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Super
Pro Entertaining, a light read
Cons Plot was a bit thin
very helpful
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Story
Characters
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"A visit to Scotland Street"

Background

Alexander McCall Smith is a Rhodesian born Scottish writer, born in 1948, and now native to Edinburgh, which is of course the setting for this book. Alexander is in fact an accomplished academic, currently residing as a Professor at Edinburgh Law School but having many impressive academic feats to his name including being the former Chairman of the British Medical Journal’s ethics committee. I mention all of this not only to prove I can do my research, but also to help give one an insight into the talent behind the book. In fact without giving the contents of this review away too soon, I was quite surprised to find out Mr McCall Smith was such a man of standing and literary accomplishment as in places the plot of this book is somewhat thin.

I didn’t actually buy this book. My Aunty back in Liverpool bought this for me for my Birthday in 05, so it’s been kicking round at home for a while. I’m a vociferous reader but managed to avoid this for some reason, I just didn’t fancy it. I’d heard of Alexander McCall Smith, read the back cover and the preface but something about it just didn’t float my boat.

Anyway, last week I was flying down to Melbourne for a meeting and I have a problem with always buying new books at the airport. I was determined not to do it on this occasion so I went to my shelves and noticed this. I was still unsure but my resolve not to buy anything new was strong so I picked it up and off I went.

44 Scotland Street was not written in the same way as a normal novel. The Scotsman newspaper actually published it as a daily serial over 6 months in 2004. This meant the author was writing trying to make something happen in every instalment and finished each instalment with some kind of mini cliff-hanger to keep the reader coming back for more. It also meant that it was being published as it was being written so it wasn’t possible to go back and make changes. Once you know this is how it was written you do look for it but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

Characters

The main character in the book is Pat McGregor, much is made of the fact that Pat is on her second Gap Year although we never find out why this is so. As the book begins she is a bit melancholy about life in general and she moves into 44 Scotland Street with a sense of optimism. The other occupant of Pat’s flat is Bruce Anderson, a very good looking, Rugby playing, Surveyor.

The other occupants of the building are Bertie, a child genius with the customary ‘pushy parents’ and Domenica, a 60 year old lady who’d had an interesting life and had a few stories to tell. Domenica befriends Pat. Other characters include Bruce’s work colleagues, the Todd family who own the surveying firm, Big Lou, owns the café across the road from the Gallery where Pat works and Mathew, Pat’s somewhat hapless boss who develops a crush on Pat.

The characters in this book are strong and probably the best thing about the book. You almost feel the each character is interesting enough to have the book centre on them with the unfortunate exception of Pat, who is at the centre of the story. To me she came across as a bit dull and a bit pathetic. It’s not that I disliked her, she is quite likable. The problem was I didn’t feel enough of anything for her, and because the author opens up so many possibilities for the characters in the way that the story is written I just felt it was a bit wasted on poor old miserable Pat.

Plot

In a nutshell, Pat moves to Scotland Street, works in a Gallery, falls in love, falls out of love, is the subject of unrequited love. Finds a painting, looses a paining, finds it again. Makes friends with some pensioners. And they all live happily ever after. Of course I’m being flippant, but herein lies my big problem with this book. Although all of these things do happen, so much more could happen. In making sure that there are lots of plot possibilities and that the book will always have something going on there are more loose ends than a wool factory.

Now there are a couple of other Scotland Street books available I notice so I could be being a bit harsh here but the plot definitely suffers from this ‘seat of your pants’ style of writing.

Conclusion.

Although I’ve spent the last couple of paragraphs ripping this book to bits I did actually quite enjoy it. The author’s treatment of Edinburgh, his home town is excellent. Very descriptive and thoroughly convincing. As I mentioned earlier, the characters are strong and I enjoyed getting to know them, even the quite unpleasant Bruce. As it turned out this was a good choice for a day of travelling. I dipped in and out of in as I was at the airport, on the plane and waiting around between appointments. I got through it in three days, obviously the first day I probably spent 4 hours reading all up but managed to finish it in two before bed sessions.

I’m now interested to read some of Alexander McCall Smith’s other works. As I said at the beginning, this isn’t the kind of book I thought I would get from a Law Professor. I don’t mean to say that in a snobby way, just that I thought it could have been better constructed.

McCall Smith has published a number of other series’ of fiction works, as well as a number of children’s books, short stories and academic works. I will be sure to investigate.

RRP is 6.99 GBP but this is available on Ebay and Amazon from as little as 99p. At that price well worth a read.

Thanks for reading.

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Comments on this review

  • avacarrdo published 19/05/2007
    Good review. I bought this book, and regreat it as I didn't much like it. But I would highly reccommend the "Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series, as they are streets ahead of this one, and show what a fantastic, lyrical writer he is.
  • Rog13 published 09/05/2007
    Nice review.
  • Chouchinciao published 09/05/2007
    I've read one of his Ladies Detective Agency books but wouldn't read any more. Doesn't sound like I'd enjoy this either. Loved the "more loose ends than a wool factory"!
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Product Information : 44 Scotland Street - Alexander McCall Smith

Manufacturer's product description

The story revolves around the comings and goings at No. 44 Scotland Street, a fictitious building in a real street in Edinburgh. Immediately recognisable is the Edinburgh chartered surveyor, stalwart of the Conservative Association, who dreams of membership of Scotland's most exclusive golf club. There is the pushy Stockbridge mother and her prodigiously talented five-year-old son, who is making good progress with the saxophone and with his Italian. Then there is Domenica Macdonald who is that type of Edinburgh lady who sees herself as a citizen of a broader intellectual world. McCall Smith tackles issues of trust and honesty, snobbery and hypocrisy, love and loss, but all with great lightness of touch.

Product Details

Type: Fiction

Genre: Modern Fiction

Title: 44 Scotland Street

Author: Alexander McCall Smith

ISBN: 0202014541; 0349118973; 1400079446; 1904598161

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Listed on Ciao since: 23/03/2006