sunshine on scotland street

Sunshine on Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith 

I have been in the absolutely perfect mood to read some Alexander McCall Smith this summer. If you've read him before you may well understand that one often has to be in the right mood to read McCall Smith. His works are gentle, witty, philosophical, not the fastest moving beasts around. 

So you have be in that sort of mood - slower, open, eager to eavesdrop on high-minded and clever conversations. 

McCall Smith (not even sure whether I'm writing that the right way - should it just be Smith?) is a prolific writer. In addition to several stand-alone straight/adaptions/particular-event novels, McCall Smith is the writer of five (FIVE!) separate series. You may well know him from his most populated and most popular series, the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I've sort of held off on that series due to already being in love with the ones I do read and so am thus prejudiced that I couldn't possibly like it as much. I've also held off because... I suspect once I start it I'll be obsessed and speed through. He also wrote the rather obscure (and terminated) Professor Dr. von Igelfeld series (you can access any of these series through the same link as the No. 1 above), Corduroy Mansions (originally serialized in The Scotsman), the Isabel Dalhousie novels and, here, 44 Scotland Street.

I found my way to McCall Smith through the 44 Scotland series, and it remains my favourite. I've been behind on the series in part because I haven't always been in quite the right mood. But I'm making up for that now - have just finished Sunshine on Scotland Street (#8 in the series), and already halfway through Bertie Plays the Blues (#7 - I read them out of order by accident), with #9 waiting in the wings (#10 comes out in the United Kingdom in about a month).    

I suppose you don't need to read this series in order but you may have spoilers/some confusion if you don't. If you're interested, there's no reason not to start at the beginning. The 44 Scotland Street series centers around a group of mostly upper-middle-class to wealthy-ish Edinburgh residents, most of whom live in a complex of flats on Scotland Street. As such, their problems are sometimes difficult to directly relate to but, of course, the flip side of the coin is that it can be great fun to escape into such a different and charming world. There are characters to adore, characters to be embarrassed for, characters one wants to see hang. 

As always, I want so badly to adopt poor Bertie. He thinks he's going to have a grand time in this installment - Angus and Dominica are getting married and so Cyril needs somewhere to stay while they're on their honeymoon. Bertie's father, Stuart, volunteers to take the gold-tooth canine in but we all know that Stuart has absolutely no power in his own home. Deeply, deeply narcissistic Bruce is astonished to meet what he imagines to be his doppleganger and when he and the identical man discover they even share the exact same birthdate, instead of investigating further Bruce does what we expect of him and instead quickly enters into a scheme to screw the other man over. Tofu and Olive, Matthew and Elspeth, and Big Lou are all here, too. 

I can't help it - I love the world of 44 Scotland Street. It's insular but comforting, with characters you either love or love to hate. McCall Smith is so damn witty - you'll find yourself either seething at the denseness or maliciousness of a character or chuckling for paragraphs at a time.