Revisiting Old Friends: Espresso Tales

I’ve been blazing through a lot of newer reading lately. I’m not complaining – it’s been awesome. There have been some fantastic books coming out.

But every once in a while, it’s kind of nice to step back and wander off with an older book. It had been a while since I first spent time with the denizens of 44 Scotland Street and I decided that it was about time I went back to see how they were all doing.

Alexander McCall Smith is the kind of writer that is able to weight ordinary, everyday occurrences with all kinds of significance and I enjoy spending time in his world. I think one of the things that makes this series such an original is that all of the places described are real – a quick Google maps search will take you to any of the spots mentioned. Go ahead – google 44 Scotland Street.

Nice spot right?

It’s one of the things I love the most about reading these books – a chance to spend some time in Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities on the planet, even if I can’t actually be in Edinburgh.


The second book, Espresso Tales, takes place more or less where we left off: Bruce is still self obsessed, although this time he’s trying to take advantage of a guy who has always tried to be a good friend to him; Pat is still kind of wandering in the wilderness between her back to back gap years and actually starting university; six year old Bertie is still trying desperately to get out from under his mother’s thumb; and Domenica is still the resident oracle, full of keen observances on the state of the human condition.

This book was heavy on Bertie as he tried to get his mom to stop making him wear pink overalls and go to normal children’s birthday parties instead of to yoga, Italian classes and saxophone lessons. He’s an incredibly insightful little boy and I suspect that if his parents listened to him a little more they would be surprised at just how perceptive he is.

One marked difference in this instalment is that McCall Smith seems to branch out a little bit, taking us into the lives of those that are connected to 44 Scotland Street but don’t necessarily live there. In this way, McCall Smith is casting his net a little wider, including more of Edinburgh in his stories. The characters that he has created are deeply flawed and almost all of them think more of themselves and their significance than they maybe should. But that’s what’s so great about reading these books – McCall Smith tells us like it is in a very straightforward way that I’m coming to learn is fairly Scottish. 

It was a lovely little read, perfect for brief snatches of reading time – because it was originally serialized for newspaper publication, the chapters are short, more like a collection of short stories than a novel.

I definitely had a good time catching up with my friends in Edinburgh and you can bet that I’ll be on the lookout for the next installment, Love Over Scotland, when I’m next at the library.

11 thoughts on “Revisiting Old Friends: Espresso Tales

  1. It’s been ages since I read any Alexander McCall Smith, and this made me want to pick up one of his books soon! I’ve only read his Botswana-set novels, to look at his Scotland-set writing would be really interesting.

  2. I’ve not read any of the Scotland Street series, but I have read a fair bit of The Sunday Philosopher’s Club series simply because it is set closer to where I live in Edinburgh. I love reading about places I know and going to the same cafes as the characters while I’m reading. Someday I’ll give this series a try now that I know Edinburgh better.

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