The third installment in Alexander McCall Smith's beloved 44 Scotland Street series is sure to delight his many fans.
This just in from Edinburgh: the complicated lives of the denizens of 44 Scotland Street are becoming no simpler. Domenica Macdonald has left for the Malacca Straits to conduct a perilous anthropological study of pirate households. Angus Lordie's dog, Cyril, has been stolen, and is facing an uncertain future wandering the streets. Bertie, the prodigiously talented six-year-old, is still enduring psychotherapy, but his burden is lightened by a junior orchestra's trip to Paris, where he makes some interesting new friends. Back in Edinburgh, there is romance for Pat with a handsome young man called Wolf, until she begins to see the attractions of the more prosaically named Matthew.
Teeming with McCall Smith's wonderful wit and charming depictions of Edinburgh, Love Over Scotland is another beautiful ode to a city and its people that continue to fascinate this astounding author.
The irresistible third entry to the 44 Scotland Street series picks up with the residents of 44 Scotland Street where Espresso Tales left off and is as addictive as any book McCall Smith has written. Anthropologist Domenica has flown off to the Straits of Malacca to study modern-day pirates. Back in Edinburgh, Pat moves from 44 Scotland Street and develops a crush on fellow art student Wolf, whose strange ways hint at a darker subplot that involves Pat's flatmate. Pat moves in with gallery owner Matthew, who struggles with both a sudden fortune and a yearning for Pat. Meanwhile, child prodigy saxophonist Bertie becomes a reluctant member of the Edinburgh Teenage Orchestra at age six and later, on a trip to Paris, finds himself wonderfully unsupervised. Poet/portrait painter Angus is tormented by the theft of his beloved dog Cyrus. The proceedings sparkle with McCall Smith's trademark wit (It was not always fun being a child, just as it had not always been fun being a medieval Scottish saint), proving once again, he's a true treasure. Illustrations by Iain McIntosh enliven the text. (Nov.)
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November 05, 2007
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Excerpt from Love over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith
Pat Distracted on a Tedious Art Course
Pat let her gaze move slowly round the room, over the figures seated at the table in the seminar room. There were ten of them; eleven if one counted Dr Fantouse himself, although he was exactly the sort of person one wouldn't count. Dr Fantouse, reader in the history of art and author of The Discerning Gaze in the Quattrocento was a mild, rather mousy man, who for some reason invariably evoked the pity of students. It was not that they disliked him - he was too kind and courteous for that - they just felt a vague, inexpressible regret that he existed, with his shabby jacket and his dull Paisley ties; no discernment there, one of them had said, with some satisfaction at the wit of the remark. And then there was the name, which sounded so like that marvellous, but under-used, Scots word which Pat's father used to describe the overly flashy - fantoosh. Dr Fantouse was not fantoosh in any respect; but neither was . . . Pat's gaze had gone all the way round the table, over all ten, skipping over Dr Fantouse quickly, as in sympathy, and now returned to the boy sitting opposite her.
He was called Wolf, she had discovered. At the first meeting of the class they had all introduced themselves round the table, at the suggestion of Dr Fantouse himself ("I'm Geoffrey Fantouse, as you may know; I'm the Quattrocento really, but I have a strong interest in aesthetics, which, I hardly need to remind you, is what we shall be discussing in this course"). And then had come a succession of names: Ginny, Karen, Mark, Greg, Alice, and so on until, at the end, Wolf, looking down at the table in modesty, had said, "Wolf", and Pat had seen the barely disguised appreciative glances of Karen and Ginny.
Wolf. It was a very good name for a boy, thought Pat; ideal, in fact. Wolf was a name filled with promise. And this Wolf, sitting opposite her, fitted the name perfectly. He was tall, broad-shouldered, with a shock of golden hair and a broad smile. Boys like that could look - and be - vacuous - surfing types with a limited vocabulary and an off-putting empty-headedness. But not this Wolf. There was a lambent intelligence in his face, a light in the eyes that revealed the mind behind the appealing features.
Now, at the second meeting of the seminar group, Pat struggled to follow the debate which Dr Fantouse was trying to encourage. They had been invited to consider the contention of Joseph Beuys that the distinction between what is art in the products of our human activity and what is not art, is a pernicious and pointless one. The discussion, which could have been so passionate, had never risen above the bland; there had been long silences, even after the name of Damien Hirst had been raised and Dr Fantouse, in an attempt to provoke controversy, had expressed doubts over the display of half a cow in formaldehyde. "I am not sure," he had ventured, "whether an artist of another period, let us say Donatello, would have considered this art. Butchery, maybe, or even science, but perhaps not art."
This remark had been greeted with silence. Then the thin-faced girl sitting next to Pat had spoken. "Can Damien Hirst actually draw?" she asked. "I mean, if you asked him to draw a house, would he be able to do so? Would it look like a house?"
They stared at her. "I don't see what that . . ." began a young man.
"That raises an interesting issue of representation," interrupted Dr Fantouse. "I'm not sure that the essence of art is its ability to represent. May I suggest, perhaps, that we turn to the ideas of Benedetto Croce and see whether he can throw any light on the subject. As you know, Croce believed in the existence of an aesthetic function built into, so to speak, the human mind. This function . . ."
Pat looked up at the ceiling. At the beginning of the new semester she had been filled with enthusiasm at the thought of what lay ahead. The idea of studying the history of art seemed to her to be immensely exciting - an eagerly anticipated intellectual adventure - but somehow the actual experience had failed so far to live up to her expectations. She had not foreseen these dry sessions with Dr Fantouse and the arid wastes of Croce; the long silences in the seminars; the absence of sparkle.
Of course there had been numerous adjustments in her life. She had left the flat in Scotland Street, she had said goodbye to Bruce, who had gone to London, and she had also seen off her friend and neighbour, Domenica Macdonald, who had embarked on a train from Waverley Station on the first leg of her journey to the Straits of Malacca and her anthropological project. And she had moved, too, to the new flat in Spottiswoode Street, which she now shared with three other students, all female. Those were enough changes in any life, and the starting of the course had merely added to the stress.