I never post on the weekends but I’ve been kind of a slacker in the blog department this week so I thought maybe a weekend post would make it up to you.
The other day I was wondering aloud about why there are so rarely books that are illustrated anymore. If you ever get the right Dickens’ version of anything you will get delightful illustrations. I believe that William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair has them as well – evidently a trend in their time. Adults like pictures too! This topic led me down the rabbit hole of wondering why there aren’t any more novel serializations in newspapers.
Aside from the fact that newspapers almost aren’t even a thing anymore, wouldn’t it be delightful if, among all the stories of explosions, war, deadly storms and bad people, there were fictional stories that lightened the mood? I’d read that.
Then I started reading 44 Scotland Street. Evidently Alexander McCall Smith had the same thoughts a few years ago. 44 Scotland Street was serialized in The Scotsman in Edinburgh and after the fact it was put together in a book and illustrated.
I wonder if I could have used more italics in that last paragraph…
Reading through some of the reviews on Goodreads before I started the book the consensus seemed to be that the book is about nothing. I’m not totally sure that I agree but it is one of those books about everyday life. Kind of the way A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is about everyday things but is one of the best books ever.
44 Scotland Street introduces us to a variety of characters living in apartments at…yeah, 44 Scotland Street. Pat is on her second gap year, working in a gallery wher she may or may not have found a famous painter’s work. Bruce is Pat’s flatmate, the most narcissistic, arrogant little sh*t you ever did meet – he’s out for himself and there’s nothing better than watching him fail. Domenica MacDonald is the neighbour across the hall, an anthropologist that has lived lives enough for 2 people, she introduces Pat to a whole other side of Edinburgh. And there’s little Bertie, a five-year-old pushed into learning Italian and playing the tenor sax by his overbearing mother, Irene.
I will admit to having a soft spot for anything taking place in Edinburgh or by authors that hail from that particular spot on the planet right now. I was in Edinburgh in the Spring, it’s where I got engaged and if there was any way I could live there for always, I’d do it in a heartbeat. For now I will have to content myself with reading about it. This was the first book by Alexander McCall Smith that I read – I will be following this up with more. Lucky for me there are a lot of titles to choose from! McCall Smith enjoyed the experience of writing this serialization so much that he extended the run and there is now a series about the characters.
This book basically managed to take three things I felt were missing from my literary education – illustrations, serialized fiction, and Edinburgh – and put them all in one book. A library win.