Reviewed by Linda Lee
The inhabitants of the boardinghouse at 44 Scotland Street are back. In this series you get a look at the lives of people who live at this address. Domenica Macdonald is a freelance anthropologist who lent her apartment to her friend Antonia Collie when she visited the Malacca Straits. After her return, Antonia bought the flat across the landing and is now serving Domenica tea in a cup stolen from her very own kitchen.
Angus, another friend and building mate of Domenica’s, has his own set of problems. Someone reported his dog for biting. Everyone knows Cyril wouldn’t bite, but Angus is going to have to prove it if Cyril is to ever come home.
The most endearing inhabitant has to be six-year-old Bertie. A musical prodigy saddled with a pushy, eccentric mother, Bertie has just become a big brother. While he has nothing against little Ulysses, he does hope the infant’s presence will deflect his mother’s attention and allow him to miss a yoga class or maybe a psychotherapy appointment. In Bertie’s mind the new baby looks too much like Dr Fairbairn. When his mother informs him he’ll have to help with changing and feeding the baby, Bertie runs for his room, the one his mother painted pink.
Alexander McCall Smith has a quiet, peaceful way with words. While reading the story you imagine him telling it in a soft voice. He realistically writes of problems and controversies we’ve all seen, but he does it in such a way you wish he could wave his magic wand over your own life, make it civilized, gentler, kinder. You expect more hard edges from a former law professor who also served on the Human Genetics Commission of the UK. If a man can see as much ugliness in life as you expect he has, yet still write of a beautiful world where you want to walk downtown and speak to your neighbor, then there has to be hope for the rest of us.
Armchair Interviews says: Most lovely read.
Author’s Web site: http://www.AlexanderMccallSmith.co.uk