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Corduroy Mansions by [Smith, Alexander Mccall]
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Corduroy Mansions Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 154 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in Corduroy Mansions (3 Book Series)
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

McCall Smith's latest is cut from the same cloth as the 44 Scotland Street series and follows the residents of a three-story Pimlico flat. William, a wine merchant, is a London Angus Lordy, both philosophical and innocent in regard to the ways of women. Freddy de la Hay, a "Pimlico Terrier," is a smaller version of Angus's dog, Cyril. As in all McCall Smith's series, most characters are kind, if a bit befuddled by the curves life throws them. The talented Simon Prebble narrates the vignettes with vigorous aplomb. In particular, he captures parliamentary member Oedipus Snark's innate nastiness, William's altruistic temperament, and his friend Marcia's hopeless attachment to him. Though the characters are less well individualized than in previous series, there are still many mirthful moments that will entertain McCall Smith fans. A Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, May 24).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4515 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 8, 2010)
  • Publication Date: July 13, 2010
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003L78268
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,956 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Catherwood on July 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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