Love Over Scotland

 

Alexander McCall Smith’s Love Over Scotland is a supremely satisfying read. It is amusing, but not vapid. The characters are so well-drawn that I could see them, hear their voices; I felt like I knew them. I believe I do know a few of them, real people who inhabit my life, though I do not reside in Edinburgh. 

Written as serial novels in The Scotsman newspaper, the 44 Scotland Street series wanders around the residents of Edinburgh, picking up the thread of a character’s story for a chapter or two, taking up another, and occasionally twisting some stories together. McCall Smith’s social commentary, as fleshed out in the lives of Angus, Domenica, Pat, Matthew, Bertie, Irene, Stuart, and Antonia, is what delights me. Social customs, art, architecture, music, literature, education, interpersonal relationships, and parenting are all noticed and are remarked.

Angus was not one to put off the opening of mail, a habit which he had heard was extremely common.

Children were no longer made to learn poetry by heart. And so the deep rhythms of the language, its inner music, was lost to them, because they had never had it embedded in their minds.

The Morning After Coffee Bar was different from the mass-produced coffee bars that had mushroomed on every street almost everywhere, a development which presaged the flattening effects of globalisation, the spreading under a cheerful banner, of a sameness that threatened to weaken and destroy all sense of place.

Above all, Alexander McCall Smith, has a cheerful humor which permeates his writing.

[Law enforcers] make an effort. They announced the hanging of a couple of pirates a few years ago, but nobody thought they were really hanged. Maybe just suspended.

He pokes fun at Irene, the opinionated, domineering mom to young Bertie, practically a genius. Poor Irene! Even poorer Bertie! We all root for him, hoping he’ll escape from her clutches. My favorite section of this book is when Bertie finds himself in Paris, unaccompanied, calls himself Bertie-Pierre, and attends the lecture of a deconstructionist at the Sorbonne. In one simple question, Bertie deconstructs the deconstructionist. 

  

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