Friday, December 11, 2009

Corduroy Mansions: nearing the end

I've been reading along with the latest serial novel by Alexander McCall Smith, part two of his Corduroy Mansions series. It's called The Dog who came in from the Cold, and is being posted online at The Telegraph. As usual, AMS has created a great group of characters -- my favourite is definitely Freddie de la Hay, the dog of the title. There are odious MPs, art students, a wine merchant, a psychologist, health food store employees, publishers, a Yeti, and various other amusing individuals whose lives cross paths in many ways.

There are always some touching sentiments in AMS' books, things that make me pause and look at them twice. Here's a quote from a chapter in which roomates Caroline and Jo go to Caroline's parents' house for the weekend:
[Caroline] knew why her friend was crying. She was crying because she was far from home, and who among us has never wanted to do that? There need be no other reason; just that. We cry for home, and for flowers on tables, and biscuits in little tins, and for mother; and we feel embarrassed, and foolish too, that we should be crying for such things; but we should not feel that way because all of us, in a sense, have strayed from home, and wish to return.
Or this reflection, by wine merchant William, after he has lent his dog Freddie de la Hay to MI6 for an undercover operation:
Just as Freddie de la Hay was missing him, so too was he experiencing that sense
of incompleteness one feels when a familiar presence is suddenly no longer there. Such feelings can be profound and long-lived, as when we lose a close friend or a member of the family – at that level, we are in the presence of true grief – or they may be less substantial, more transient, as when a shop or coffee bar we have grown to like closes down, or a favourite office colleague is transferred. These may seem little things, but they constitute the anchor-points of our lives and are often more important than we imagine. If we lose enough of these small things, we risk finding ourselves adrift, as William now felt himself to be.
I've found it easy to become fond of many of the characters (and finding others not so endearing!) and am really sad that the novel is coming to a close this week. Pop on over and take a look if you haven't yet -- there will be just over 70 chapters by the time it finishes, and you can read them all, or listen to Andrew Sachs reading them to you if you'd prefer that. It is well worth it, for an entertaining read full of gentle humour, personal foibles and definite English eccentrics.

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