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1.0 out of 5 starsWould prefer to read a map.
Reviewed in the United States on September 6, 2018
This book was a serious disappointment given that I love so many other novels by this author. It was an off-putting conglomeration of Edinburgh Street names. Who cares that one goes up one street and turns on another? Locals who can picture the geography from the street names perhaps but no one else. The focus on geography over story was disconcerting to the point I found this book to be a waste of unretrievable hours in my lifetime.
5.0 out of 5 starsYou'll love Alexander McCall Smith's writing!
Reviewed in the United States on April 27, 2017
Reading the entire 44 Scotland Street series, and working on this one right now. The cast of characters is "spot on" for personality, language traits, and continuity of intelligence and spirit. So, I'm not reviewing any of the other books at this time. In the same apartment building on Scotland Street: Bruce is a classic narcissist; 60 year-old Domenica is filled with sardonic comments about society; and Pat, the young student has been in love, and out of love, as she listens, speaks, and grows wiser with every sentence. They are all single. The centerpiece of the series is Bertie, a precocious 5 year old, whose "Mummy" is spoiling his joy...and I can hardly wait to follow all of these fascinating, but approachable, lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
5.0 out of 5 starsMore Adventures on Scotland Street
Reviewed in the United States on June 12, 2010
The characters that first charmed us in
44 Scotland Street: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (1)
are back and even better as we learn more about their everyday lives. The author has given us a pair of virtual binoculars and lets us unobtrusively watch their lives unfold in a parade of human foibles, love, desire, and moral issues. The short chapters are quick and clever, the writing fast-paced and fun.
The most likeable character is Bertie, the precocious six-year-old whose mother has turned her little genius into an Italian-speaking, saxophone-playing , yoga-exercising mess. All he wants to do is be a little boy and his very wise insights and struggles to achieve normalcy will warm your heart. His over-bearing mother Irene and milquetoast father Stuart are also back and finally have a long-overdue confrontation about Bertie's upbringing.
The narcissistic Bruce is fired as a surveyor and, in the moments he is not admiring himself in the mirror, he embarks haphazardly on a career as a wine merchant. Pat is still sharing his flat and she herself finally makes a big step by ending her second gap year and enrolling at Edinburgh University. Domenica, the well-travelled neighbor, finds a boyfriend for Pat and continues to extemporize on world affairs. But it is Ramsey Dunbarton, a non-resident of the townhouse, and his wife who provide the bulk of the humor as Ramsey reads from his memoirs and tells us more than he realizes about himself. Also peripheral to the story are the coffee-shop owner Lou who reveals a lost love, gallery owner Matthew who confronts his father, and the therapist Dr. Fairbairn who attempts to right a wrong and gets unexpected results.
Will Bertie ever be able to wear jeans and not strawberry dungarees? Will a case of Petrus wine be Bruce's key to success? Will Pat become a nudist to please her new boyfriend? Will a train ride with his son be enough to make Bruce stand up to Irene? Will Mrs. Dunbarton ever wake up?
More heart-warming moments and laugh-out-loud ones make this a most enjoyable addition to the totally delightful Scotland Street series. As for this reader, I eagerly anticipate my next trip to Scotland Street.
In "Espresso Tales," the marvelous sequel to "44 Scotland Street," Alexander McCall Smith once again displays his mastery of getting inside his characters' heads, whether they be child or dog, narcissistic macho or crashing bore, a woman feeling the pinch of advancing age or a mother overdoing it in the nurture department. The story I predict you'll fall in love with is that of Bertie, the precocious youngster who can speak Italian and play the saxophone but hasn't yet mastered crossing streets. As the episodes switched from character to character, I pounced on the ones dealing with Bertie to see how he was progressing in thwarting his arch-nemesis, his loving mother, who has ensured his place as class freak in the first grade by making him wear pink (make that "crushed strawberry") dungarees to prove his liberation from gender stereotypes.
The novel is character-driven, but the characters I felt succeeded the least were Pat, the young woman who played the lead role in "44 Scotland Street," who, while sweet, is rather bland, and Ramsey Dunbarton, whose tediousness is so well characterized I tended to skip over his boring monologues when I realized that they didn't further the plot.
But these are small complaints. Even if you haven't had the pleasure of reading "44 Scotland Street," you will enjoy this novel if you love rich depictions of exotic eccentrics; in the end, you will recognize them to be very much like people you know.
Just a joy from start to finish. Funny, touching, satirical and evocative, it is a love letter to Edinburgh. Along with Ian Rankin's Rebus books, it makes the city come alive as almost an additional character in the story. It makes me want to be there again. There is one flaw in this particular book in the series from my perspective, an attempt to add interest to a dry, ancient lawyer's memoirs left me bored. As ever with these books, it is only a few minutes before we move on to one of the other characters though. To end on an upbeat, The thoughts of Cyril the dog call to mind some of the best of Jack London as in White Fang etc. I hope dogs think like that.
5.0 out of 5 starsGreat characters great story telling
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 15, 2018
Over the years I have sometimes discovered books and authors by chance and sometimes I go by reviews and on this occasion I had noticed Alaexander McCall Smith had written an lot of books and had been getting a lot of good reviews I’m happy to say I can now understand why so many people read his books . I have just finished the second book in the Scotland street series and can’t wait to start the third one . Normally I can get a bit bored reading the same kind of books after a couple but he is such a good story teller and his characters are so lifelike that I just want to keep up with what they are going to do next . Must go and order number three
4.0 out of 5 starsNot quite a double shot of Espresso
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 23, 2008
This is the second instalment from Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street.
As a reader I was transported back to the lives of Bertie and his infernal mother, Irene, Bruce, Pat, Big Lou, Matthew and Domenica. As well as other new (and older) characters which were given more written word space than in the first book.
For the reason that I am not a resident or visitor to Edinburgh the `in' references are somewhat lost on me, as they were in the first book. However I have created an image of the area myself and I feel that this suffices just enough. In fact isn't that what reading is all about?
What I enjoyed about this book is the thought that certain key characters were going to get their comeuppance. Irene, Bertie's neurotic mother who continues to run the `Bertie Project' with defiant passion, sees her own life unravel. Dr Fairbairn answers back stating that she is the problem and her weak willed husband, Stuart decides to gain his son's boyhood back and assertively takes a stand and a paintbrush against all he disagrees with.
Bruce is the character that even the author suggests should get some sort of retribution but does he? The infuriating thing is as the reader you know whatever happens he will always come up smelling of roses.
Pat still seems to be a rather flat and wishy-washy character who I feel McCall Smith uses as the vehicle to introduce the other more flamboyant (Domenica), odd (Peter the nudist) and disastrous (Matthew) characters.
The element of humour is still within and I did find myself chuckling about everything that happens around Bertie. This is what drew me back to this series of books and will continue to do so. There is great satisfaction in the unravelling of Irene and the mystery of the missing Red Volvo that comes back with new door knobs and a missing gear! Are these people so self involved that they do not know where they left their car or is that the mystery?
The ending (if there is such a thing as an ending in this tale) leaves so much open that a third book was obvious and I will add that to my ever growing books to read.
A good book to dip in and out but you need the prior knowledge of book one to really get to grips with all the threads of the storyline.
5.0 out of 5 starsMore unmitigated pleasure from Scotland Street
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 6, 2014
Reading AMS's novels makes me want to sell up and move to Edinburgh at once. It sounds like a wonderful place. These novels started life as newspaper columns so every chapter is very short -- 2-3 minutes on the Kindle -- which makes it ideal for reading at bedtime, or on the tube, or in commercial breaks.
All the characters are middle-aged, even the ones who are actually supposed to be 20, which makes you wonder if McCall Smith has ever met any young people, but, being middle-aged myself, this helps me identify with them. The most gripping character is five-year-old Bertie, forced by his appalling mother to be a child prodigy and new boy (junior version of a new man) when all he wants is to be a muddy kid. If you ever read this, Alexander, please kill Irene off!
3.0 out of 5 starsA cosy read, but nowhere near as good as the first book...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 3, 2011
I loved the first book and laughed out loud several times, but this book was a bit of a let-down for me, I'm afraid. I ended up flicking through the pages about Ramsey Dumbarton, just found them so tedious. I also got a bit tired of Domenica droning on about this that and the other, too. Loved Cyril's chapters, though!
Bertie and Irene are as amusing as ever, I loved his attempt to camouflage himself at the posh school! Bruce, Matthew and Pat are still there, but lacking something, I felt.
Maybe it's just that the novelty has worn off for me, but unlike the first book, I won't be in a hurry to lend this one to a friend, it will have to go to the charity shop!