44 scotland street by alexander mccall smith Alexander McCall Smith is one of those rarities – he’s a man who has successfully written a tonne of chick lit. Whether it’s romance, household affairs or anything else that is deemed ‘too feminine and trivial’ for many male writers, McCall Smith simply takes it in his stride. Set in Edinburgh, 44 Scotland Street tells a series of different stories from the third person perspective of the occupants at, you guessed it, 44 Scotland Street. There’s Pat, a 20-year old who is on her second gap year; Bruce, her conceited yet disastrously handsome roommate; Irene, the pushy mother downstairs, and a whole host of others. Basically, picture all of those Love, Actually type storylines that were really popular five years ago and you have the storyline of 44 Scotland Street. Now I’ve read Alexander McCall Smith, and I think it’s fair to say that he is essentially the Jerry Seinfeld of Scotland literature – he manages to entertain the masses by describing the everyday. Not much seems to happen in McCall Smith’s novels, and usually that doesn’t matter. His charming characters, gorgeous scenery and elegant prose usually make up for the fact that there’s, well, not all that much of a storyline. I did know this going into 44 Scotland Street. I had also read that it was originally a newspaper periodical, where a bit each week would be published by The Scotsman (so very Charles Dickens of him). So I assumed that the storyline would be slow-paced, at best. Yet, to be brutally frank, there is slow-paced, and there is glacial. 44 Scotland Street was the latter of the two. First, there was the dynamic of the storyline: where instead of there being a central plot, with smaller plots surrounding it, there were a serious of small plots that didn’t really seem to go anywhere. I’ve never been a fan of this type of storyline, in much the same way that I never enjoyed Love, Actually or even short stories for that matter. If I’m going to read a story about a character, I want to be immersed fully into their lives, witness their woes and experience their emotions. And, the reality is, that’s near to impossible to do in a 300 page book that covers the lives of about eight different characters. Second, I felt as though there wasn’t much conflict in this book to start with, but what there was was either not resolved or acknowledged at all, or, quite literally, laughed off. We’ve been introduced to all of this people, yet there is no resolution to what we’ve been told about them. Pat still has a bit of a crush on Bruce; Bruce still thinks he is the greatest person living in Scotland; and even Irene, the pushy mother, appears to be as equally pigheaded as she was at the start of the novel. While I know that this novel was the first in a series, I felt as though I was being cheated out of a conclusion. Finally, my least favourite thing about this novel was the endless number of dull conversations included about, well, nothing. I assume Alexander McCall Smith put them in there as a way of describing his characters and of showcasing the mundane of everyday life, but honestly, there were just boring. They would go on for pages and pages and I would just lose interest and go and watch TV instead (or even worse, I think I got so bored, I was driven to doing the household chores). As a result, for someone who usually reads these sort of books in a day or two (perspective: I just re-read all seven Harry Potter books in two weeks), I found myself lagging, losing interest and only picking it up because I wanted to finish it and find something else to read. I still don’t mind Alexander McCall Smith or his writing style, and I can definitely see why people find his work so charming, but 44 Scotland Street was a disappointment and it has put me off trying to read any more of his books, at least for a while. Have you read any of the 44 Scotland Street series? Are you a fan of Alexander McCall Smith? Let me know!

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