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44 Scotland Street February 5, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Great Reads, library programs, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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The Second Saturday Book Club’s selection for February is 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith.  Imagine an upscale, but not snooty, neighborhood in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.  The inhabitants of one particular building, and their close associates, make up the cast of characters.  There’s a college student working at an art gallery, a semi-retired anthropologist, and a wonderful woman named “Big Lou,” who has read practically everything and presides over the local coffee house.  However, my favorite character is the much put-upon child prodigy, Bertie, who just wants to stop going to therapy, learning Italian, and wearing raspberry overalls, and start being a little boy.

The story of these interesting characters is told in a series of episodes which appeared as a serial in the Scotsman newspaper over several years.  Two more collections, Espresso Tales and Love over Scotland follow this one.

These stories are not sensational – they mostly deal with the daily social interactions of the characters.  While the book would never be described as heavy, it is far from trivial. I find that McCall Smith has a sensitive and insightful view of human behavior.  He is a highly skilled wordsmith.  The tone and language are just right, and his characters are delightful.  The denizens of 44 Scotland Street encounter challenging situations at times, but generally things work out in a satisfying and often surprising manner.  Listen to the CD, if possible – the mild Scots accent adds to the experience, and the narrator does a brilliant job expressing the voices of the different characters.

Alexander McCall Smith is better known as the author of The Number One Ladies Detective Agency and its several sequels.  These novels are a charming portrayal of a lady detective in a small town in Botswana.  All of his work that I’ve encountered has a very positive outlook on life. 

I like 44 Scotland Street so much that I made it one of my “Staff Picks” here at the Library.  I think you will enjoy it very much!  (And I hope to see you on Saturday, February 9th, at 10:30 a.m. for the Book Club discussion!)

Tina Maura Albee

The Book Goddess

P.S.  If I haven’t yet convinced you to read these books, how about this?  One of the scenes in Espresso Tales involves a nudist picnic in an Edinburgh rainstorm.  I’ll simply say that this should not be missed.

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