44 SCOTLAND STREET by Alexander McCall Smith

I’ve got most of the Detective Agency series, which I enjoyed.  I’ve seen other books by McCall Smith in the bookstores, including 44 Scotland Street, but never felt moved to buy them.  Then along comes Father’s Day, and this book along with it.
   It tells the story of a few characters in Edinburgh – the inhabitants of 44 Scotland Street and their friends and acquaintances.  The introduction informs me that it was written in serialised chunks for a newspaper, which no doubt explains why it is divided into bite-sized morsels rather than traditional chapters.  It probably also explains its frothy nature – the characters are almost caricatures, and nothing of any real consequence happens.  I guess that’s fair enough, given the nature of the readership and the serialisation requirements.
   But overall, I didn’t like it.  Perhaps part of this is because I’m not keen on superficiality, but I think the main reason is that the book comes over to me as smug.  Condescending.  We’re not supposed to laugh with the characters, but at them.  Further, the circles that McCall Smith moves in are clearly not the same as mine – and I suspect they will not be familiar to most of his readers.
   Sorry.  I liked the gentle descriptions and mildly swerving plots of the Detective Agency books, but I didn’t like this one.  I shan’t be buying any more.
add comment | read comments (0) 2010-07-08