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Corduroy Mansions: A Corduroy Mansions Novel (1) [Kindle Edition]

Alexander Mccall Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)

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Book Description


In the Corduroy Mansions series of novels, set in London’s hip Pimlico neighborhood, we meet a cast of charming eccentrics, including perhaps the world’s most clever terrier, who make their home in a handsome, though slightly dilapidated, apartment block. 

Corduroy Mansions is the affectionate nickname given to a genteel, crumbling mansion block in London’s vibrant Pimlico neighborhood and the home turf of a captivating collection of quirky and altogether McCall-Smithian characters. There’s the middle-aged wine merchant William, who’s trying to convince his reluctant twenty-four-year-old son, Eddie, to leave the nest; and Marcia, the boutique caterer who has her sights set on William. There’s also the (justifiably) much-loathed Member of Parliament Oedipus Snark; his mother, Berthea, who’s writing his biography and hating every minute of it; and his long-suffering girlfriend, Barbara, a literary agent who would like to be his wife (but, then, she’d like to be almost anyone’s wife). There’s the vitamin evangelist, the psychoanalyst, the art student with a puzzling boyfriend and Freddie de la Hay, the Pimlico terrier who insists on wearing a seat belt and is almost certainly the only avowed vegetarian canine in London.
Filled with the ins and outs of neighborliness in all its unexpected variations, Corduroy Mansions showcases the life, laughter and humanity that have become the hallmarks of Alexander McCall Smith’s work. 

From the Hardcover edition.

Books In This Series (3 Books)
Complete Series

  • Editorial Reviews Review

    Alexander McCall Smith on Corduroy Mansions

    When I started writing serial novels in newspapers six years ago, I had no idea that the whole business would rapidly become addictive. My initial foray into this genre of fiction began after a conversation with Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City, which was a saga of life in San Francisco that ran to several volumes. The idea was implanted of starting a daily novel set in Edinburgh, and a few months later I embarked on 44 Scotland Street. After five years of producing a chapter a day for six months of the year, I decided to give Edinburgh a rest for a while and start a tale set in London. Corduroy Mansions, published each day in the online edition of The Daily Telegraph, was the result.

    Like any saga, there is a story--but it is not a complicated one. These stories are character-based: what interests me is what makes the characters tick rather than intricate and potentially confusing plots.

    There are quite a lot of characters in the story, many of them occupying a rather run-down block of flats in Pimlico that gives its name to the series. We are introduced to William French, a wine merchant who has just turned fifty, but who is in denial about that. He is a widower with a dreadful son, Eddie, who sees no reason to leave a comfortable home and set up independently, in spite of every encouragement by his father. William is admired by Marcia, a caterer who would like to marry him--or anybody really.

    William lives at the top of the building. On the floor below is a shared flat lived in by four young women. One of these, Dee, runs a vitamin and health food shop not far away and is a keen exponent of alternative medicine in its various guises, and in particular of colonic irrigation. Then there is Caroline, who is studying for a master’s degree in fine art at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

    Caroline is fond of James, who is doing the same course as she is. James is very artistic, with a particular interest in the work of the French artist, Nicolas Poussin. James likes Caroline a great deal, but is unsure as to what his real proclivities are. Caroline is optimistic that she can confirm him in the direction she would like him to take, that is as one who is interested in women, but will she succeed?

    William, at least, is quite unambiguous in that department: he wants to find a woman. His long-time friend Marcia, however, thinks she just may be his match. In the meantime, William has for company a remarkable dog, Freddie de la Hay, a Pimlico Terrier.

    Then there is Oedipus Snark, a Liberal Democrat MP. He is so unpleasant that his mother, Berthea Snark, is writing his unauthorized biography in which she has the intention of dishing every bit of dirt on her son that she can muster. Berthea is the sister of the mystically-inclined Terence Moongrove, an exponent of Bulgarian sacred dance and the unexpected driver of a Porsche.

    That is probably all that one needs to know. But even if one cannot be bothered to absorb even those few facts, the story will, I hope, be abundantly clear. This is light social comedy, I suppose, but while I admit that the whole point of the exercise is for the reader to have fun, I hope in this story, nonetheless, to say something about how we live and about how finding love and meaning in the very small things of life may transform us, may make our ordinary lives more bearable.

    From Publishers Weekly

    Set in present-day London, Smith's charming first in a new series offers a variation on his 44 Scotland Street books, centering on the eccentric occupants of Corduroy Mansions and their offbeat doings. William French, a wine merchant, hopes to force his son, Eddie, who refuses to take his hints about sharing a flat with other 20-somethings, to leave the nest by getting a dog whose presence in their apartment he expects will drive Eddie out. William's neighbors include Dee, who works at a vitamin shop and believes a coworker needs to purge his system of excess sodium, and her roommate, Jenny, who works for an odious MP, Oedipus Snark, who treats Jenny like dirt. Smith paints with broader strokes than in his subtle and often moving No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and no one character is especially memorable, but the wry humor he elicits from the collisions of lives and their repercussions will bring smiles to the faces of many readers.
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Product Details

    • File Size: 4520 KB
    • Print Length: 369 pages
    • Publisher: Anchor (July 8, 2010)
    • Sold by: Random House LLC
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B003L78268
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,988 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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    Customer Reviews

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    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    162 of 180 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars McCall Smith: the Dickens of the 21st Century July 15, 2009
    Whenever I tried on Wikipedia to say that Alexander McCall Smith was the Dickens of the 21st century, some officious editor would complain and say that McCall Smith is no Dickens. Well, in a way that is true: CORDUROY MANSIONS is far more fun to read and not even remotely depressing, which Dickens can often be.

    And even the most fastidious Wiki editor had to admit that McCall Smith has revived the serial novel, the form that Dickens made so famous in the 19th century. First we had the magnificent series set in Edinburgh (44 Scotland Street) and now we have the equally wonderful and totally enjoyable CORDUROY MANSIONS.

    The characters are as brilliantly drawn as always and are just as funny, poignant, thoughtful and superbly observed as ever. We have got to know a lot of wonderful new people through the serialization in the Daily Telegraph and now we have it in permanent book form.

    (And some of the characters are real people, as at least one chapter shows....)

    One final thing: ALL McCall Smith's novels are as good as each other: this really ought to have the same sales as the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, as it is every bit as enjoyable and fun to read.

    I will be buying several copies of this and giving them to friends - why not do the same? Summer is coming, and this is the ideal summer present to have as holiday reading.

    Christopher Catherwood (author of WINSTON CHURCHILL: THE FLAWED GENIUS OF WORLD WAR II)
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    103 of 117 people found the following review helpful
    What I relished in the 44 Scotland Street series of 'serial novels' published by Alexander McCall Smith was the uniqueness and quirkiness of his characters and the gentle pace of the narration, where life simply happens, the way most of us experience it in fact (as opposed to the frenetic pace of thrillers or the intense drama of romantic novels.) But after four or five volumes of that series, the formula had already begun to wear thin. Ultimately, I like anything I read -- fiction or fiction -- to have some kind of point (the eggheads refer to it as a narrative arc) and there simply isn't one here. It's not impossible to achieve this in a serial novel (after all, Dickens managed it with aplomb), but McCall Smith is flagging.

    This book simply transplants the 44 Scotland Street formula to the streets of London; specifically a particular street in Pimlico, where stands a house transformed into a block of flats that is known to one and all as Corduroy mansions. Anyone who has already read McCall Smith's other serial novels (which I expect will be 95% of the potential readers for this book) knows what happens: the building's various inhabitants interact with each other and with those outside its walls. (For instance, one of the girls sharing one of the flats is the personal assistant to the only nasty Liberal Democrat member of Parliament, rejoicing in the name of Oedipus Snark; one subplot involves what happens to Oedipus's mother and her brother, who rejoices in the name of Terence Moongrove; another follows his girlfriend, Barbara Ragg, after their breakup.)

    But the plotlines stutter along at best, leaving the reader dangling.
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    36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars 44 Scotland Street moves south of the border October 24, 2009
    Corduroy Mansions appears to be the start of a new London-based serial story, similar to McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series (based in Edinborough).

    Once again we are introduced to a group of interesting characters who live in the various households of the building and their loves and lives both within and beyond the building. Well, sort of. Some of the residents get very little attention and remain very shadowy characters in the book. Some get better fleshed out, but really much of the book is devoted to the loves and lives of people who don't have any connection to Corduroy Mansions.

    Much of the book is actually about the remarkably named Liberal Democrat MP Oedipus Snark (whose personal assistant lives at Corduroy Masions so there is some conection) along with Snark's mother, Snark's uncle, Snark's girlfiend and Snark's ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, whose connection to Corduroy Masions is quite unclear. Perhaps in subsequent books these characters will become more enmeshed into the world of Corduroy Masions, but at the moment, it feels almost like two novels in the one book - "Corduroy Mansions" and "The Relatives and Friends Of Oedipus Snark".

    If you are already an Alexander McCall fan, by all means read this book. If you are new to Alexander McCall fan, try 44 Scotland Street first and wait and see if this new Corduroy Mansions series develops better than it started.
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    12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Addictive read! August 5, 2010
    Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
    This is the first book that I have read by Alexander McCall Smith. I realize that I have been missing a lot! This novel is set in a London residential section and a building complex called Corduroy Mansions. What makes this such a great read is that the characters are all a little crazy, even down to the vegatarian dog. The dog enters the scene when William, the wine merchant, wants to get his adult (do-nothing) son out of his appartment at the Mansions. His son does not seem to take any hints about leaving, those obtuse or in-your-face. The idea is that since the son has a dog phobia, getting the dog will make his son leave the apartment - but that plan backfires and he moves on to other plans (which also do not work out quite as he expects). Thus the joy in reading the book. Looking into the lives of these eccentric people. I love the part where one of the characters has a "near death" experience by charging his car's battery with bare wires and does not realize he needs a battery charger for the task.
    It is just one crazy event after another, told in that charming rather droll way that some Europeans have. I can't wait for the next installment of this series and I will certainly be hunting for the other series of books from this author.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
    I just find his books to be a gentle quiet read for my heart. I can't wait to read book 2
    Published 13 days ago by Aunt Dizzy
    2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
    Good character development but not much plot.
    Published 28 days ago by Patricia Witherington
    5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! I enjoyed having the Kindle version and audiobook ...
    Excellent! I enjoyed having the Kindle version and audiobook both. I did some reading and some listening. Gave it to several friends.
    Published 1 month ago by Bill
    3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
    Has great promise in the beginning - then bogs down. Still a good/fun read.
    Published 1 month ago by Carmel Fog
    5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, comforting book with quirky characters
    I'm a big fan of McCall Smith. Giggled and laughed out loud about characters such as Oedipus and Berthea Snark so much, I might have sounded a bit crazy.
    Published 2 months ago by SPC
    3.0 out of 5 stars Light read. Obviously, a prelude for more to ...
    Light read. Obviously, a prelude for more to come. Corduroy Mansions has set the scene for the diverse lives of the characters that live at the mansion. Read more
    Published 2 months ago by Pamela Banaszak
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Thanks so much !
    Published 4 months ago by c.j. gemeinhardt
    5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed this lovely book
    Thoroughly enjoyed this lovely book. McCall Smith's characters are, as always, engaging and wise. I feel as though I've spent a few evenings with good friends.
    Published 4 months ago by Dianne McCulloch
    5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the books
    Loved the books. I read all 3 in the series. Being a dog lover I found them wonderful. Wish I had a dog like Freddie de la Hay.LPM
    Published 5 months ago by Linda Mensinger
    3.0 out of 5 stars I haven't warmed up to the characters yet.
    I bought this because I so thoroughly enjoyed the 44 Scotland St. series. I read all 9 books in a month! So I ventured into this series and bought 3 at a time. Read more
    Published 6 months ago by S. CHALOM
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    More About the Author

    Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

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    Topic From this Discussion
    Do recommend this to all your fellow McCall Smith fans
    Corduroy Mansions is very good; better than "44 Scotland Street" series. I await the sequel.
    Feb 8, 2011 by Betty A. Thrasher |  See all 2 posts
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