44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have read this book before but enjoyed again the rich characters in it. Each of the people exists in a rooming house passing each other in the hall and yet not really knowing about each other's lives. My favorite character is the little boy prodigy, Bertie, or at least his mother thinks so. He is 5 and playing the saxophone and learning to read and speak Italian. His overly involved mother has painted his bedroom pink so he will not be bound by the cultural stereotypes and would rather see him play with dolls instead of the trains he so loves. There is something wonderfully satisfying about the way this thread plays out.
Then there is the main character, Pat, who is taking her second gap year and finds herself in a flat with the narcissistic Bruce whom I wanted to strangle on most every page. She gets a job at an art gallery working for the dilettante, Matthew, who has never had to make a living, which is a good thing, since he has failed at everything he ever did. His father seems to think nothing of bailing him out and letting him start over. The main action centers around a painting in the gallery which they think may be by Samuel Peploe, but that part of the plot is just a device to hang all these wonderful character sketches on.
As with all of Alexander McCall Smith's books, there is more about how the characters think and feel than a plot. This is a gentle philosophical and thoroughly entertaining book and I will read anything he has written. I am so in love with his characters. I think he has a lot in common with Charles Dickens and will be surprised if some of his characters begin to have a life of their own outside of his books.
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