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Showing 1-10 of 132 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 176 reviews
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.
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on February 20, 2015
Long a fan of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, now I'm hooked on the 44 Scotland Street Novels. These stories were and continue to be published as daily installments in "The Scotsman" newspaper, and like Dickens before him, McCall Smith writes without knowing each book's ending, but lets the story unfold as he goes! The result is a book of delightful, short chapters full of gentle humor, insights into Edinburgh life, and engaging character development. I've come to really care about dear Bertie, a precocious 6 year-old dealing with a very pushy Mom, Big Lou, a warm-hearted owner of a coffee shop, a portrait painter named Angus, his endearing dog, Cyril - the list goes on and on. If you love the No. 1 Ladies Detective agency books, do yourself a favor and try this series.
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on March 30, 2016
This is the second collection of connected stories that first appeared as a serial in a Scottish newspaper. Each chapter is fairly short, and is usually about one or two of the many main characters, whose lives sometimes intersect. Smith is slyly satirical in his portraits of the people of Edinburgh, and I often chuckled out loud while reading. He's not as moralistic in this series as he is in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. It's good reading for folks who like variety, or who don't like complex tales or sex or violence.
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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.
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on September 9, 2014
This book is quite different from the author's books set in Africa. These characters tend to lack the warmth and generosity I've come to expect. The stories roll along nicely and there are a few humorous situations. Much is resolved by the book's end and a reader might want to continue with some of the characters, but certainly not all of them. Perhaps there's a bit more satire here. This is a gentle read -- enjoyable but not a page turner.
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on November 22, 2011
This novel was very readable. It was originally a newspaper article done daily in the 'Scotsman.' Collected in a volume, makes the chapters short and you can set it down if you need to do something like cooking dinner! The problem, for me, was I didn't want to put it down.

This volume opens with our Pat, deciding what to do with her future, but by the ending, all the characters in the book look to the future and big changes are made.

The ending of Summer is at hand and so last flings, such as nudist picnics, are planned. There are weddings, several changes of address to come, Bertie and Daddy are closer, fortunes established and on and on. The biggest change that was unexpected is Domenica's and I'm not going to tell you.

The journey into the future is too much fun for me to spoil it for you. Find a copy of this book and sit down and enjoy!
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If you liked 44 Scotland Street, you will also enjoy this next book in McCall Smith's series. All the characters are back and their adventures are more exciting even than the last book's. The one exception is Ramsey Dunbarton's memoirs, which are intended to be so boring they are hilarious but unfortunately hit the mark at boring period. I don't know why McCall Smith kept on and on adding installments to the man's memoirs- it felt like there were a lot of chapters wasted on it that could have been better used on the charming Bertie or Pat.

That said, the book still gets five stars, because except for these few chapters about Ramsey, the book was very enjoyable and moved along at a good pace.
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on August 30, 2017
The best parts were about Bertie. The other characters were more or less silly. The dinner party was a good place for it to end but the poem ran on far too long as did most of the ruminations of the characters.
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on September 3, 2013
I enjoy AMS's "Number 1 Detective Agency" and "Sunday Philosophers' Club" novels as for their quiet, thoughtful characters and the pleasant escape from my own life to one in which nearly everyone is well-intentioned. This series, though, is even more lightweight, and because of the large cast, it's harder to invest in the characters.

The obvious, and I believe intentional, parallel is the "Tales of the City" series, by Armistead Maupin. Except Maupin focuses on a generation, a city, and a minority that have deeper intrinsic interest: twenty-somethings in San Francisco in the '70s wrestling with their sexuality.

I read "Tales of the City" 15 years ago, and I'm tempted to reread it. While "Espresso Tales" is a pleasant enough way to pass an hour or two, I don't think I'd ever want to re-read it.
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on June 6, 2015
This author is charming and his characters are of all ages and genders. He develops them very well, and this is a delightful and lighthearted look at relationships and personalities, from the narcissistic to the manipulative to the sweet little brilliant boy who wants to just be a little boy and not take yoga lessons and wear strawberry dungarees. This is a very enjoyable book series!
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