Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reading Alexander McCall Smith

I just finished Love Over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith. It had been a while since I visited 44 Scotland Street, but I slipped right back into the lives of these quirky characters. I love the way McCall Smith manages to interweave their stories and make their cozy Georgian style Edinburgh neighborhood come alive.

My favorite character is Bertie, who at age 6 plays the saxophone, speaks Italian and delightfully -- in this third novel in the series -- gets away from his controlling, seriously deluded mother and spends a few days in Paris. Second favorite character: the dog Cyril, who is stolen from his painter/poet owner Angus Lordie. Everytime we slip into the dog's point of view, we are introduced to a new world of interesting ankles, a multitude of aromas, and more abstract things that Cyrus can perceive, such as his master's state of mind.

Having hardly ever been to Scotland via fiction, and wanting to stay there, my attention wandered when McCall Smith sent Domenica MacDonald to the Malacca Straits to conduct an anthropological study of pirates. So I just sort of skimmed over those chapters to get back to the lives of the other Scotland Street characters. His chapters, of which there are 113 in this book, are short and easily gulped down (or not), designed as they are to first appear in the daily pages of the The Scotsman newspaper.

Funny, when I started the book and was renewing my acquaintance with Angus, Bertie, Pat and Matthew (romance warning!), I realized that in the back of my brain I was having a niggling thought: now who does this writing remind me of? The tone was similar to that in the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series, which is, of course -- also written by Alexander McCall Smith. How one author can do so well in two such different settings as Botswana and Scotland, is explained by the author's geographical biography as well as his creative talents. He was born in Zimbabwe, and has been a law professor in both Botswana and Edinburgh. Learn more about him on his webpage. In addition to law and fiction, he is involved with a musical group he and his wife founded called The Really Terrible Orchestra.

For some reason, I don't warm up to McCall Smith's other two series: Isabel Dalhousie or The Portuguese Irregular Verb books. They are a wee bit dry for my taste

Breaking news: The Number One Detective Agency film will air on BBC during Easter of 2008.

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