Tuesday, July 13, 2010

44 Scotland Street

I have a new obsession--the lives of the people who live at 44 Scotland Street, Edinburgh as related by Alexander McCall Smith. What's even more delightful than reading/listening to these slices of everyday life about the people living in an apartment building is knowing that the series has 5 books in it, so having just finished the first, 44 Scotland Street, I get to launch directly into the second, Espresso Tales.

McCall Smith has done a wonderful job of capturing the flavor of his beloved city through an ensemble of characters, from the naive 20-year old Pat who has a heart of gold and practical streak that makes for a charming mix, to her boss, Matthew, who is a hopeless trust fund baby who couldn't find his way out of a paper bag, to her flatmate Bruce, who is such a complete narcissistic jerk that you can't help but want him to fall flat on his face, to the sweet sad story of Bertie, an intelligent 6-year old boy with an absolutely vile mother, Irene. There are a host of other characters as well--some funny, some witty, some interesting, some sad, and some real. With their permission, McCall Smith includes fellow writer Ian Rankin into the stories, as well as a few politicians and other notables.

My only regret is that I didn't read this series before my trip to Edinburgh last summer. How I would have loved to do the 44 Scotland Street walking tour, which would have taken me to the Cumberland Bar, Valvona & Crolla deli, Jenners for shopping and tea, as well as numerous other real locations that McCall Smith has his characters visit regularly. After I looked at Scotland Street on Google Earth, I looked around the Internet a bit more and discovered this pdf of the guide In the Footsteps of 44 Scotland Street, which was produced by The Scotsman, the paper that published the stories serially before they were collected and published in book form.

Oh well, I'll just have to go back to Edinburgh so that I can do the tour!


  1. Sounds lovely! I am looking for another audio book series (just finished Harry Potter, yet again) to provide entertainment during all the summer driving we've been doing. I'll look for this in the library. Thanks!

  2. I really enjoyed this series. The characters are all so realistic too. I know a few ghastly Irene types! You'll definitely have to visit Edinburgh again, it's a great excuse.

  3. I have to look for this and its absolutely new to me.

  4. I read this recently and loved it as well. I just picked Espresso Tales up from the library. I'm glad he has a fairly large backlist for me to choose from! I've enjoyed everything of his I've read so far.