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    First Steps in Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street…

     

     

    Books to the Ceiling illustration Arnold Lobel Whiskers & Rhymes Greenwillow Books 1985

    "Books to the Ceiling" illustration Arnold Lobel Whiskers & Rhymes Greenwillow Books 1985

     

    Books to the ceiling, books to the sky.
    My piles of books are a mile high.
    How I love them!
    How I need them!

    (Arnold Lobel – Whiskers & Rhyme)

     

    Hi everybody!

    The little corner of my library devoted to Alexander McCall Smith’s books is beginning to become crowded. As I’ve mentioned in my last post, Alexander McCall Smith is a very prolific author, generally adding one title each year to each of his four series.

    Twelve volumes have been published since 1998 in the ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series’, Alexander McCall Smith’s first series which takes place in Bostwana. This series, with Mma Ramotswe as the very colourful central character, is extremely popular. I’ve read the first volume, some time ago, and I liked it very well. Of course, I intend to read it again and I will also read the eleven following volumes. It will be reading ”by the fireside’ this time … la ‘lecture au coin du feu’ 😉

    The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party Alexander McCall Smith Pantheon Books 2011

    The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party Alexander McCall Smith Pantheon Books 2011

    The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party Alexander McCall Smith  Little Brown 2011

    The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party Alexander McCall Smith Little Brown 2011

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The last volume of ‘The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ is The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party. It was  published on March 3rd 2011

    44 Scotland Street Alexander McCall Smith Edition 10-18 2007 frontcover

    44 Scotland Street Alexander McCall Smith Edition 10-18 2007

    Seven volumes have been published since 2005 in the ’44 Scotland Street series’ (published dailyin The Scotsman in 2004). The last volume of the series, Bertie Plays The Blues , has just been published in August 2011, a few days ago, but I’m still six books away from this title and I wonder how long it will take to me to arrive there…

    Alexander McCall Smith Bertie Plays the Blues Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited  2011

    Alexander McCall Smith Bertie Plays the BluesPolygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited 2011

    I do like the cover of Bertie Plays the Blues. It’s the second one which focuses on Bertie, one of the most lovely characters of the novel 😉

     

    Alexander McCall Smith The World According to Bertie 2007

    Alexander McCall Smith The World According to Bertie 2007

     

    As most readers, I like very much Bertie… the gifted little boy who does love trains 😉

    Alexander McCall Smith The Charming Quirks of Others Little, Brown, September 2010

    Alexander McCall Smith The Charming Quirks of Others Little, Brown, September 2010

    Alexander McCall Smith The Charming Quirks of Others - Abacus 4 août 2011

    Alexander McCall Smith The Charming Quirks of Others - Abacus 4 août 2011

    In ‘The Sunday Philosophy Club Series’ seven volumes have been published to this day with the eighth one to be released very soon, this September 2011 maybe.

     

    Alexander McCall Smith The Dog Who Came in From the Cold - Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited May 2010

    Alexander McCall Smith The Dog Who Came in From the Cold - Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited May 2010

    Alexander McCall Smith A Conspiracy of Friends -  Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited April 2011

    Alexander McCall Smith A Conspiracy of Friends - Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited April 2011

     

     

     

    The ‘Corduroy Mansions’, Alexander McCall Smith last series, takes place in London. It is still being published in The Telegraph. An audio version is also available. I feel like reading this series for there seems to be a lovely character in it : a dog! From what I’ve read in 44 Scotland Street, I know that the author excells in describing these friendly creatures! Since I don’t know much of London either, I could get some information about the big city there. Alexander McCall Smith also excells in making us feel the sense of place.

     

    Alexander McCall Smith The Forgotten affairs of Youth - Little, Brown September 2011

    Alexander McCall Smith The Forgotten affairs of Youth - Little, Brown September 2011

     

    Just to count them and make a list, I’ve put all my collection of McCall Smith’s books on my desk, the English and the French ones side by side. So doing, I did enjoy the lively and colourful mosaic they were composing though, like in a jigsaw puzzle, many pieces are still lacking. Anyway, and while I’m waiting for the arrival of new ones, I can make my first steps into the world of Alexander McCall Smith.

     

    Alexander McCall Smith books mosaic © 2011 Scotiana

    Alexander McCall Smith books mosaic © 2011 Scotiana

    You can notice, at the bottom of this mosaic, the first three volumes of ‘McCall Smith’s Edinburgh Chronicles’ in the French edition, and on the first row the first two volumes in English. I usually try to read the novels in both languages, when I happen to have them. It takes me more time but my reading is more rewarding then. Elisabeth Kern has been translating the ‘No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ and ’44 Scotland Street’ series into French. Good job it is!

     

    Auguste Renoir 'Young Girl in the Garden at Mezy' 1891 Boston Museum

    Auguste Renoir 'Young Girl in the Garden at Mezy' 1891 Boston Museum

    As mentioned in my last post, I’ve just finished reading 44 Scotland Street. Pure reading pleasure! It has been a favourite on my summer reading list;-)

    To me, the expression ‘summer reading’ evokes unforgettable hours of reading under the shade of the big lime trees which grew in front of my grand-mother’s house, sheltered from the scorching sun which was hitting, a little further, rows and rows of vines and the lucerne field busy buzzing with all sorts of winged creatures. I have not forgotten the big old wardrobe in the barn, with its shelves groaning under the weight of books. How we, the children, would have liked to fall on the rusty key which opened this ‘caverne d’Ali Baba’ but our grand’ma used to hide it, with many other much coveted treasures, in a place only known to her. The old books which piled up in the old wardrobe were mostly red hardcover school prizes which contained many black and white illustrations and which had been won by my mother and my aunt, a long time ago, during one of those much anticipated days of  ‘Distribution des prix’ .

     

    84 Charing Cross Helen Hanff Editions Autrement 2001

    84 Charing Cross Helen Hanff Editions Autrement 2001

    84 Charing Cross Helen Hanff - Virago Press Ltd 2002

    84 Charing Cross Helen Hanff - Virago Press Ltd 2002

     

     

     

    The title 44 Scotland Street reminds me of 84, Charing Cross Road,  Helene Hanff’s epistolary novel (a pure jewel!).  But it’s George Perec’s La vie mode d’emploi (in English : Life: A User’s Manual) which came immediately to my mind when I began to read 44 Scotland Street

     

    George Perec La vie mode d'emploi Paris, Librairie générale française, collection Le Livre de Poche  2009

    George Perec La vie mode d'emploi Paris, Librairie générale française, collection Le Livre de Poche 2009

    Georges Perec Life A User's Manual David R. Godine 1987

    Georges Perec Life A User's Manual David R. Godine 1987

     

    ‘…a tapestry of interwoven stories and ideas and literary and historical allusions, based on the lives of the inhabitants of a fictitious Parisian apartment block, 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier’ as described in Wikipedia.

     

     

    Armistead Maupin Tales of the City US 1st edition Harper & Row 1978

    Armistead Maupin Tales of the City US 1st edition Harper & Row 1978

     

    However, in the first lines of his very interesting Preface, Alexander McCall Smith underlines the direct influence of The San Francisco Chronicle (Tales of the City) by Armistead Maupin. No need to say that I’ve put it on my reading list, all the more since we happen to have visited the very beautiful town of San Francisco :-).

     

     

    44 Scotland Street Alexander McCall Smith Abacus illustrated edition 2005 frontcover

    44 Scotland Street Alexander McCall Smith Abacus illustrated edition 2005 frontcover

    44 ScotlandStreet Alexander McCall Smith 1st edition Polygon 2005

    44 ScotlandStreet Alexander McCall Smith 1st edition Polygon 2005

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    She pressed the bell and waited.

    After a few moments something buzzed and she pushed open the large black door

    with its numerals, 44, its lion’s head knocker, and its tarnished brass plate above the handle.

    (44 Scotland Street – Alexander McCall Smith)

     

    I’ve found five good reasons to make our first steps in 44 Scotland Street:

    1Pure reading pleasure: easy and entertaining reading, with much suspense, humour and the gentle touch here and there.

    2 – A very lively characterization: there are a number of colourful characters in Alexander McCall Smith’s novel. Pat is the first one we meet. She opens the door of 44 Scotland Street and we’ll be following her adventures all along the series.

    3 – The  sense of place which makes us discover Edinburgh in a new light

    4 – Food for thought: the philosophical touch…

    5 – And a little something more, ringing a bell, touching the heart but I will tell you more about that in my next post 😉

     

    And let us leave the last word to the writer 😉

     

    Alexander McCall Smith Source Wikipedia

    Alexander McCall Smith Source Wikipedia

     

    What I have tried to do in 44 Scotland Street is to say something about life in Edinburgh which will strike readers as being recognizable

    about this extraordinary city and yet at the same time be a bit of light-hearted fiction.

    ……………….

    I enjoyed creating these characters, all of whom reflect human types I have encountered and known while living in Edinburgh.

    It is only one slice of life in this town – but it is a slice which can be entertaining. Some of the people in this book are real, and appear under their own names.

     

    Bonne lecture 🙂

    A bientôt. Mairiuna.


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