44 Scotland Street
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Product Description

Welcome to 44 Scotland Street, home to some of Edinburgh's most colorful characters. There's Pat, a twenty-year-old who has recently moved into a flat with Bruce, an athletic young man with a keen awareness of his own appearance. Their neighbor, Domenica, is an eccentric and insightful widow. In the flat below are Irene and her appealing son Bertie, who is the victim of his mother’s desire for him to learn the saxophone and italian–all at the tender age of five.

Love triangles, a lost painting, intriguing new friends, and an encounter with a famous Scottish crime writer are just a few of the ingredients that add to this delightful and witty portrait of Edinburgh society, which was first published as a serial in The Scotsman newspaper.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Dull and uninvolving
    I couldn't even finish this one. Although I love Smith's "Ladies Detective Agency" series, ""44 Scotland Street" has none of the charm and personality of those books.

    Partly, I think, is the locale. I have a preference for either historical mysteries or those set in remote, unusual or "exotic" locations. Somehow, an apartment in contemporary Scotland just doesn't cut it (the Highlands, maybe....).

    Despite my enjoyment of his previous series, I've always felt that Smith's main talent isn't really his literary skills but in his ability to develop interesting characters and express his love of Botswana. Without those unusual characters and place, the result is a dull, "ordinary" book.

    I may end up judging some books unfairly since I don't see them through to the end unless I'm really taken by them. But there are just too many really good books to spend time on the second rate ones. This book just didn't make the cut. ...more info
  • Witty
    Alexander McCall Smith's latest series introduces us to characters ranging from the egocentric Bruce whose full time job consists of taking baths and admiring his looks in the mirror to Irene, the neurotic mother who has encouraged her young son, Bertie, to learn Italian and the Saxaphone despite his protests and then there is Pat, the attractive college student on her 2nd Gap Year who recognizes the good in people despite falling in love with Bruce, albeit temporarily. While I enjoyed all of the story lines and characters, I found the relationship with Pat and Domenica, her elderly neighbor, most interesting given that many young people dismiss the elderly as being boring and unworthy of their time which is so often not the case, as Pat recognized.

    Like other reviewers, the only potential downside to this book was the references to Scottish politics and customs that I couldn't relate to not having lived there... at the same time however, that is what makes it interesting because it opened my eyes up to another world which is the whole point of books in my opinion.
    ...more info
  • Hilariously entertaining
    This novel deserves 5 stars.
    I was given 44 Scotland Street as a Christmas gift. I assumed it was a "detective story" given the author's previous well known work. I was very pleasantly surprised to find the book was like nothing else I have ever read. I have lived in Scotland and have visited Jenner's department store in Edninburgh, as well as some of the other landmarks mentioned in the book. I can assure readers who have not been to Edinburgh that the descriptions and the characterizations are very real, for example, the rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
    Although it may be difficult for non-Scots to fully appreciate certain elements of the book, the characters can be found practically anywhere and in any time. For example, the narcissistic Bruce and the class-conscious Sasha.
    I would highly recommend this book to anyone and especially homesick Scots. I can hardly wait for the sequel....more info
  • pastiche
    It's a lightly amusing pastiche of the lives of the occupants of a block of flats in Edinburgh. A young couple have a 5 year old son, Bertie, who is the centre of his mother's life and albeit that the child is intelligent, perhaps more than just intelligent, the mother has decided that his life must be crammed full of "significant" pastimes, like speaking Italian and playing the saxaphone. The poor little boy only wants to be left alone to play with his train set and to play football with ,as yet, non existent friends. Another occupant is a 20 year girl who is beginning her second gap year between school and university ( we never find out why she's doing a second year!), and shares a flat with a beautiful looking young man who is a complete narcissist. The stories are an amusing, light read but go nowhere, without a beginning or an end, and finish, leaving the reader up in the air....more info
  • Edinburgh is His Muse
    I loved this book. I loved the main point of view: that of a young girl who's "on her second gap year," who's trying to find her way and ends up working in a gallery for a diffident young man. I also think the episodic quality of the narrative worked. After I read the introduction, I understood that he was writing for serialization, and set the project up as a kind of challenge to himself, to see if he could pull it off without restorting to weekly "cliffhanger-type" chapter endings. I think he is too subtle a writer to resort to that, anyway.

    McCall Smith never strives for effect. Yet there are set pieces here (like Bruce stealing a pair of undies from his boss's "dryer room") that had me laughing out loud when I read them (on a plane from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area). I read the book straight through, over two plane flights. Honestly, I couldn't put it down, towards the last 50 or so pages.

    OK, the ending may have been a little unsatisfactory. But there is a hint, just a hint, of what might happen to the young girl, who I came to feel enormous sympathy for.

    Another thing about this book: if you've never been to Edinburgh (I haven't), you will feel like booking your next vacation there....more info
  • Quaint and Entertaining
    This collection of shorts narrating the lives of the inhabitants of 44 Scotland Street - a Edinburgh neighborhood, full of quirky characters, both lovable and unlovable - is quaint and entertaining, striking a cord of truth in the mind and heart, like many of Smith's stories. A great addition to those previously delighted with Smith - for new readers I recommend The No. #1 Ladies' Detective Agency....more info
  • A paean full of wry social commentary and endearing characters
    44 SCOTLAND STREET first appeared in serialization ala Charles Dickens in 110 daily installments in The Scotsman newspaper. Not a book in the ordinary sense of the word, it also is not a mystery, which is what we have become accustomed to expect from Alexander McCall Smith, creator of Mma Ramotswe in THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series. There is a wee puzzler involving a painting in the art gallery where our heroine, Pat, works. Is it or is it not an undiscovered painting by eighteenth century painter Samuel Peploe? And if it is, how should one go about retrieving it from a charity boutique where it mistakenly found its way through somewhat complicated means? This minor plot leads us to the cast of characters with whom Pat lives, works and socializes as she flies from the family nest to move into the titled address.

    On the landing at 44 Scotland Street lives the widowed and widely traveled Domenica, who befriends Pat and fills her in on the rest of the residents: the stunningly handsome but callow Bruce, Pat's flat mate, who is convinced he is the world's most charming and desirable male, and the strange family largely run by the precocious five-year-old Bertie, whose mother is determined to turn him into a child prodigy.

    With three successful mystery series under his belt, McCall Smith seems to draw from a bottomless well of quirky, wise and philosophical characters to delight his fans. He has charmed us with THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series and its protagonist, Precious Ramotswe; confounded us with his redoubtable Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld in the PORTUGUESE IRREGULAR VERBS mysteries; and introduced us to the Scottish-American philosopher Isabel Dalhousie in THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB.

    McCall Smith's love of place underlies his tales of mystery and moral dilemmas in each of his stories. A deep and abiding love of Africa and its culture bring to life not only the characters but also the unique problems of an emerging third world country, served in an appetizing dish of humor, wisdom and mystique. His adopted yet nearly native country of Scotland is equally treated to insights and purely Scottish ways in the other two series.

    44 SCOTLAND STREET is a paean, with tongue in cheek to Edinburgh society --- high, middle and low. McCall Smith clearly loves the extraordinary city and its slightly stuffy denizens, but you don't need a guidebook or a Scotts burr to enjoy his wry social comments and endearing characters.

    --- Reviewed by Roz Shea...more info
  • McCall Smith is a marvel!
    I believe I've become addicted to Alexander McCall Smith's writing! Everything I read by him, I thoroughly enjoy. This book is very different than The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, and the Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld series. Each has its own character, style and humor. This book is based on a daily newspaper serial, McCall Smith was asked to do after he brought up the subject in an article he wrote in the newspaper, The Herald, in Scotland. As usual, McCall Smith was up to the task and, I believe, is working on another serialized story that will eventually be put into book form.

    This book is about the motley crew who inhabit an apartment building on the edge of the Bohemian part of Edinburgh's New Town, 44 Scotland Street. There's Pat, the newest tenant, and from whose point of view the story is told;. Bruce Anderson, the gadabout narcissist who is sure every woman in the world adores him; the Pollack family, little Bertie, age 5, his pushy mother, Irene, and his long-suffering father, Stuart. Then we have wise and free-spirited Domenica Macdonald, a woman in her sixties, and another man, Mr. Syme, who stays to himself and is rarely seen by the others.

    Among the storylines are Pat's struggle with her growing attraction to flat mate Bruce, Bertie's acting out resulting from his growing resentment of his mother's efforts to make him grow up way before it's time; and Domenica and Pat's growing friendship. To support herself, Pat takes a job at an art gallery run by a mild-mannered, seemingly ineffectual, rich kid named Matthew, and a series of events unfold involving a painting. My favorite character turned out to be Bertie as he begins to rebel against the pressures brought to bear on him by his parents. The characters are a mix of personalities as one would expect, and the events portrayed are an equal mix of serious, kooky, and downright hilarious! I hope there will be more books about these characters.

    Carolyn Rowe Hill
    ...more info
  • Just 'ok'
    I started reading 'The no.1 Ladies Detective Agency' but could never really get into it. I liked the idea of this book however so decided to give the author another go. Sadly, although the book has some funny moments (Bertie's tantrums!)it never really gripped me. I love Scotland but am not familar enough with the places and slang terms so felt i missed out on the 'insider' comments. The book also has a very poor ending which leaves lots of loose ends and you end up thinking 'hold on what happened to..?' and 'what was the point of?'.

    On the whole it is ok and i imagine if you are familar with Edinburgh you would enjoy it more than i did....more info
  • Too fractured for my taste
    When a friend let me borrow the first three books in this series, I thought I was set for a long while. Not so. I couldn't even finish this book, let alone go on to Espresso Tales or Love Over Scotland (44 Scotland Street).

    I think it is the nature of serial writing itself that doesn't work for me. I'm a "buy and hold" kind of reader. When I encounter someone I like in a book, I want to stay with him or her. I didn't like jumping around every few pages from one narrator to the next.

    After a while, these supposedly disparate narrators began to all sound alike to me -- even their thought patterns eventually merged into one. And their lives are just plain dull. Dull, dull, dull. My life is boring enough; in my reading, I'd like something to think about, something to dream about, something to cherish. After 50 pages or so, I thought to myself: Do I really care about any of these people? The answer was no, so I stopped reading. What a relief!...more info
  • Really enjoyed this series
    This book was originally written as a serialized novel, so every chapter must have something to keep the reader interested. It was certainly not deep heavy reading but if you are looking for a light "escape from reality book" this series may be for you- it was funny too! I read the entire series- they were all very enjoyable. I DID like the Ladies Detective Agcy series, but this book was not similar at all- I am impressed with Mr Smith's "range" in creating characters for his books. I am not a fan of all of his work though, as I did not like the Sunday Philosophy club....more info
  • Funny
    This book was a little slow in the beginning - I was just about to toss it aside thinking it had all this character development and no action - when it finally kicked in and I couldn't put it down. There are some very interesting and funny characters in here, which provide a further in depth portrayal of Edinburgh, Scotland where the story takes place. The reading can feel a little staccato; the chapters are only a couple of pages long, but that can be expectd since they were first published as a daily series in THE SCOTSMAN newspaper. There are many funny stories in here, and when I reached the last page, only one of these gets resolved, which is a little disappointing but nonetheless, they were so amusing and funny, they are still very enjoyable. I eagerly await for the second volume.

    Funny stories about Edinburgh and the folks who live there....more info
  • Another McCall Smith gem
    I've been looking forward to this book version of the serialized fiction, and it does not disappoint! Although quite different in setting from Botswana, the author's sparkling wit and keen observation of human failings and folly makes this a wonderful read.

    The story revolves around the tenants at 44 Scotland Street. Pat, a twenty-year-old, moves into a flat occupied by her narcissistic flatmate, Bruce. Other colorful characters include the eccentric but wise Domenica, the Pollocks with their precious five-year-old genius who speaks Italian and plays the saxophone. From these residents we meet others through their work and play, all portrayed with such nuanced observations that one can't help but recognize them in those around our daily lives. It'll no doubt bring a smile to your lips as it did mine.

    I enjoy this book so much I'm already looking forward to the sequel, which will be coming out in October in the U.K. ...more info
  • Wonderfully entertaining
    Smith is a wonderful writer who can say and describe so much in just the right words. His characters are delightful and real. I think I have stumbled across each one of them in my lifetime. He also takes you to Edinburgh and you feel as though you have been there....more info
  • Disappointing Series - Scotland Street
    I was disappointed in this series. I had read the entire series of the Number One Ladies Detective Agency and loved the simple but charming prose. I had also read the entire Irregular Portuguese Verbs series and loved it for the witty arrogance of the main character. I was amazed that these two series had been written by the same author, since they were so diametrically different in their writing style. Therefore it was with great hopes that I bought the Scotland Street series. But I found it so utterly pretentious with characters who throw latin phrases around like colloqualisms and who seem altogether too clever to ever ingratiate themselves to the reader. ...more info
  • A Rollicking Excursion through Edinburgh
    The first thing to know about this book is that it was written in seral format for a newspaper in Scotland. The second thing to know is that it doesn't make a lot of sense. The third thing is -- if you can get past the first two, this book is downright hilarious. Don't expect a great work of fiction, but do expect some wry observations on the human condition, as well as some unique characters.

    I would have liked to see things wrapped up a bit more at the end (What happened to Bertie? And Lizzie? And Big Lou??), but still -- LOVED THIS. Alexander McCall Smith is an intelligent, entertaining, and quirky writer. ...more info
  • meanders briskly, goes down easily
    I've gotten irritated with Smith's Botswana series, because (I think) he spends too much time on the characters' internal musings -- which are not as deep and meaningful as he seems to think they are -- and not enough on anything actually happening. Due to the requirements of the serial format, he was forced to combat that tendency in this book, with a happy result. Yes, it does meander a bit, but each meander is an interesting morsel in its own right, and it ties up into a fairly satisfying whole, if you can overlook a few loose ends.

    I do agree with the reviewers who pointed out that it must have meant a lot more to residents of Edinburgh than it does to us. Most of the references are clear enough from context (i.e., "the Braids" is obviously some kind of upper-crust district), but the knowing wink will be lost on most American readers. ...more info
  • Tales of the Scotland City
    Taking a cue from Armistead Maupin's, "Tales of the City", Alexander McCall Smith has written a charming, witty, and oftentimes very insider portrait of a small group of inhabitants at 44 Scotland Place. Like Maupin, Smith cobbles together a little over a half dozen characters and sets them free to interact. A departure from his excellent Detective Ladies series, it never quite reached the level of those books to me, however it has enough of it's own charm and wit to easily recommend it....more info
  • I Worried If He Could Match Botswana Series -- He Did
    The already pronounced success stars have a great disadvantage - we expect the next act to be as great as the last. Never can a baseball slugger of fame be adequate when we attend the game - unless he hits a shot heard around the world. Never can the ballet dancer have an above average day when we patronage. Never can a beloved writer be just a head taller than the good writers we also occasionally read.

    McCall Smith is a proven writer, and beloved. The Botswana series has millions of reading minions, who inhale each novel religiously the week it comes out. I know one of those readers. See him every day in the mirror.

    And, then that writer occasionally throws out other stuff - get a fresh try at it. And, sometimes it is good - 44 Scotland Street. And, sometimes, it is not as good - the Isabel Dalhousie series (But on September 16 a new novel comes out and he may rebound, and how we hope he does rebound).

    Funny. Insightful. Depictive. And more. This novel handles a 5-year old [Bertie] and his all-too-aggressive mother [Irene] (who would make the most ardent soccer mom of the USA look like a pushover), a widowed and well traveled Scot who married an Indian [Domenica], a young girl experiencing her second year off [Pat] while working for the loser (but nice) rich boy [Matthew] and rooming with the narcissist hunk [Bruce] whose interest in his work as a surveyor under a boring boss and socialite wife is waning.

    The meetings of poor little Bertie with his shrink are hilarious. The introspection of Domenica is great. And, Matthew's befuddling self is both endearing and provocative of sympathy and tears for his ever lost self esteem.

    Each chapter is 3 pages long - probably as this was written for the newspaper's daily delivery. So, you can read one chapter and commence sleep with a smile. Alternatively, you can read 50 chapters and still have plenty left to read the next night. Either way, it makes for great bed stand reading.

    This one is worth turning the pages. Try it, you will like it....more info
  • First Dickens, now McCall Smith
    First Charles Dickens in the nineteenth century - and now Alexander McCall Smith for the twenty first: serialization of novels is not new, and McCall Smith is a more than worthy literary descendant of the great Dickens himself. This novel, while set in Edinburgh, for Scotsman readers, and full of in jokes, is one that can be enjoyed worldwide. Little Bertie already has fans writing to McCall Smith from all over the world asking for him to be liberated from his ghastly mother. All life is here in this novel - you don't have to be Scottish to appreciate its wonderful humour, since we all know people like the wimpish boyfriend, the slightly batty older lady, the snobbish politicians, the pushy over-ambitious mother, and the bright young woman trying to work out what on earth it is she wants to do in life. In other words, while the characters are set in Edinburgh, they could just as well be in New York, Los Angeles, St Louis, or Richmond (Virginia). A more entertaining book you could not find - perfect reading for the summer by the beach, hiking in the Ozarks, or whatever plans for vacations near and far you may have (it will be a great Christmas present, for that matter). Read it, love it, and then buy ten copies for all your family and friends to share it with them. Charles Dickens - you have a rival! Christopher Catherwood (author of CHURCHILL'S FOLLY, Carroll and Graf, 2004)...more info
  • The essence of Alexander McCall Smith
    This is the 7th or 8th of Smiths wonderful story books I have read. What I enjoyed about 44 Scotland Street, as always, was the richness of character, the foibles, fears and strengths of these multiple and varying people who you feel you know on first aquaintance. The psychiatrist and overbearing mother take therapy to a whole new and perverse level! The narcissistic adonis, the bewildered young lady on a gap, the indecissive gallery manager are just a few of the treats in store. The ending of the book does not tie everything together in a neat package but you have enough at this point to do your own closure on the main actors of the book. A fun read....more info
  • Droll stroll in Edinburgh
    This is an enjoyable read that sets the reader up very nicely for a sequel. Mccall Smith is almost totally focused on character development--and good characters they are, too. Readers who need a strong baselline plot will be less intrigued with this book, but the author's easy writing style has something for everyone. By the end of the novel, I found myself interested in seeing the city of Edinburgh which serves as a major "character" here. Good read....more info
  • '44 Scotland Street' an extremely fun and entertaining place to go!
    I thoroughly enjoyed '44 Scotland Street' and couldn't put it down. Call it a guilty pleasure, or call it an absorbing glimpse into the lives of a variety of characters. It was like being a fly on the wall, watching Bruce preen in front of the bathroom mirror; I loved to loathe this guy, and how delicious to see him squirm through various situations. Yet even he was well-rounded enough to have some good in him, as you see him being kind to the boss's ugly duckling daughter. Many of these characters, Pat, Angus, Domenica and Matthew, felt like friends to me, probably because each segment was told from the point of view of it's character. Each chapter ended with a small cliffhanger that made you eager to continue to the next segment. If I had been reading this in the newspaper, as originally published, this would have tortured me! I really needed to read on for resolution. Finally, I really enjoyed seeing the little boy prodigy rebel against his horribly pushy mother and try to insist on living a normal life. Hooray for Bertie! And hooray for Alexander McCall Smith! I would rate this book right up there with the Mma Ramotswe books, and am hoping for a sequel soon....more info