Sunday, November 01, 2009

Corduroy Mansions

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know of my love for Alexander McCall Smith. I've talked about his work before; I have read it all and have few critical faculties when it comes to his books - I love them all. This week I have been having a bit of a McCall Smith fest; I received Corduroy Mansions recently, the first volume of his newest serial novel, set in the Pimlico area in London. The second set in this series, entitled The Dog who Came in from the Cold, is now running serially in The Telegraph - you can follow along reading or listening to the podcasts as read by Andrew Sachs. It follows a varied cast of people loosely connected with the apartment block known as Corduroy Mansions, dealing with their ins and outs, moral dilemmas and love affairs.

I have read all the 44 Scotland Street novels, newspaper serials set in Edinburgh, and especially love some of the characters in those books, like Bertie the eternal 6 yr old, or the cameos made by Ian Rankin. But in this series, the setting is London, and that does make a difference. When I read La's Orchestra Saves the World, a stand-alone novel with another English setting, I noted the fact that England doesn't seem to be as powerful in his writings as does Scotland or Botswana. That remains the same in this serial novel, and although the setting is not as much of a character as in his other work, the foibles of the human characters are still amusing and engaging. In this series, some of the themes connected to the characters' occupations are art, wine, and dogs -- the same things that appear in the Edinburgh stories, but here they appear quite differently. It is fascinating to see how these preoccupations take on different lives in this setting. Anyhow, it was an enjoyable read, with, reliably, some ponderings about the wider meaning of life itself. Here is Alexander McCall Smith himself, talking about the citizens of the Corduroy Mansions world in a Telegraph interview. At the Telegraph you can suggest what you think should happen to the characters next, or you may even want to follow the wonderful canine Freddie de la Hay on Twitter. Yes, the dog tweets.

If you enjoy McCall Smith, or want a handy slice of daily reading that is an entertaining 'soap opera' of sorts, try picking up Corduroy Mansions, or catching up online and reading along to The Dog Who Came in from the Cold. Great fun.


  1. I have read quite a couple of series by Alexander McCall Smith but not this one. I must remedy this.

  2. Marg - I had been holding off on the one because I couldn't remember to read the daily excerpts - once I started on the first book though, I got so interested that I'm popping over to the Telegraph to keep up with series 2!

  3. I have enjoyed everything I've read from Alexander McCall Smith. I'll have to look for this one, too.

  4. Diversions - I know, he amazes me. I love his work and his voice comes through so strongly in everything he does.


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