This month, A Novel Idea met to discuss Alexander McCall Smith’s “44 Scotland Street”, the first installment in the Scotland Street series. This was an interesting read, as it was originally published as a series in a newspaper, with short chapters and disjointed perspectives. Many of our members did not realise it was part of a series, and wondered why the story did not seem to end, and felt like an introduction.
It is the story of Pat, a young down-on-her-luck woman who moves into a flat with the handsome, self-absorbed Bruce at 44 Scotland Street. Other main characters include Irene and her son Bertie (a neurotic woman and her 5 year old saxophone playing, Italian speaking prodigy of a son); Domenica (a middle aged woman who has had an extremely interesting life); and Matthew (an art gallery owner with no experience). Somehow, McCall Smith manages to combine all of these stories around the disappearance of a potentially valuable painting, with hilarious results.
Our opinions of this book were drastically different, which lead to an incredibly interesting discussion. The book recieved an overall rating of 4.5, with ratings ranging from 8 to 2.
As part of our discussion, we talked about McCall Smith as an author, as most of us had read and enjoyed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. We decided that his Botswana centred books were more exotic and exciting than the ones set in Edinburgh, but that his character development was quite astonishing. While the book doesn’t actually have much of a plot, it is certainly filled with witty banter and humorous conversations worthy of Noel Coward.
While at the beginning of the meeting, almost all of us agreed we wouldn’t read another in the series, the discussion was lively enough that we decided we actually would like to read more about certain characters, and could be tempted to pick up one of these books in the future.
At our next meeting, we will be discussing Jojo Moyes ‘Me Before You’, the story of Lou Clark who has a comfortable job, a steady boyfriend (who she might not actually love) and a room at her parent’s house. One day, Lou loses her job and is forced to seek help from a recruitment office. In the current economy, there are not many available jobs, and Lou ends up being sent to care for a man named Will Traynor, a quadriplegic with a severe attitude problem. At first Will thinks Lou is a flakey, useless idiot,, while Lou finds Will to be sarcastic, rude and arrogant. But overtime, a friendship grows. And then Lou learns a terrible secret about Will..