Review: 44 Scotland Street – Alexander McCall Smith

McCall SmithTitle: 44 Scotland Street
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Abacus, Little, Brown Book Group
Publication date: 11 August 2005
Genre: General fiction
Pages: 336

This book tells the story of an eccentric cast of characters who live in the multiple-occupancy flats that make up 44 Scotland Street, a fictional house on a real street in Edinburgh. It begins with Pat MacGregor, who is on her second gap year and is reluctant to move away from her parents, moving in with the narcissistic Bruce Anderson. We soon meet their neighbours and their social circle, from Irene Pollock, the pushy mother of a child prodigy, to Domenica Macdonald, who is full of never-ending stories and sees herself as part of the Edinburgh intelligentsia.

Rather than being plot-driven, this book is really all about the personalities. It was my first dip into Alexander McCall Smith’s writing and I was struck by how vivid and animated his characters are. They are all flawed, and yet endearing in their own individual ways.

Alexander McCall Smith also has a real ease with comedy. It appears to come naturally and I found myself suppressing a few laughs in silent tube carriages during my commute. I particularly loved the South Edinburgh Conservative Association Ball, which goes ahead with a mere six guests. Better that than to possibly face the embarrassment of cancelling it!

Edinburgh is one of my favourite places, so it was a real treat to read a book set on the streets of this well-loved city and featuring some of the capital’s well-known literary figures, such as Ian Rankin. Originally serialised in The Scotsman, the book is made up of short chapters, so it’s perfect for dipping in and out of or reading alongside other books. There is also a highly praised Radio 4 recording of the book, which I imagine would be great fun if you can get your hands on it.

The book concluded nicely, but I was reluctant to leave the residents of 44 Scotland Street. I almost feel as if I’ve had a brief trip to Edinburgh and left them behind, but they are still very much alive and living their (slightly bizarre) lives without me.

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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