All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The 44 Scotland Street Series, by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is something of a marvel among authors. He isn't the author of a book series, he is the author of at least four series of books, in addition to multiple other novels, story collections, and children's books. And while a reader might expect the quality of the novels to be lacking, the complexity of the story lines and the plots of the novels are well developed and engaging.
The 44 Scotland Street series is an example of Smith's storytelling ability. Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, the novels focus on inhabitants of the flats at 44 Scotland Street and their friends. Domenica is a widowed anthropologist, Bruce is a surveyor, and Irene is the ambitious mother of six-year-old Bertie. Pat, who rents a room from Bruce and is on a break from her university studies, works for Matthew, an art dealer. Angus, who is a portrait painter and friends with Domenica, frequents Big Lou's coffee shop near Matthew's art gallery.
Although the pace of action is fairly slow--keep in mind that these books were written as serial novels and originally published chapter by chapter in a newspaper--topics are deeper than one might expect. Discussions of free will, politics, relationships, art, and poetry are interspersed with the everyday activities of the characters, so that readers gain a sense of life in Edinburgh while getting to know them.
And the characters inspire emotion. For example, Bertie's "space" is painted pink (his mother wants him to disassociate colors from gender), he attends yoga and psychotherapy (which he dislikes), is nearly fluent in Italian from taking weekly lessons, and is ready to test for an advanced level in tenor saxophone. He complains that he doesn't have time to play, so his mother arranges for weekly play dates with a girl from his school whom he dislikes. Smith relates that Bertie is one character whom he is often asked about, with readers desiring some relief for him from his mother's rigid schedule.
The 44 Scotland Street series is engaging and easy to pick up between other books. There are currently eight books in the series, beginning with "44 Scotland Street" and the most current edition, "Sunshine on Scotland Street." Smith's other series include The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, The Sunday Philosophy Club, and Corduroy Mansions. His books are published by Little Brown.

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