Saturday, 14 February 2009

Reading...Corduroy Mansions, by Alexander McCall Smith

As addictive and enjoyable as his other novels, although not toppling the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Mma Ramotswe from their places as my favourite McCall Smith creations. I have eagerly awaited new instalments, often checking the Telegraph website several times a day to see if the latest chapter had been uploaded yet. I easily found the most engaging quartet of characters to be William, Eddie, Freddie de la Hay and Marcia, and I didn’t understand the sometimes vitriolic dislike of Marcia evident on the comment boards depicting her as some sort of nymphomaniac harpy. To me she seemed genuine in her feelings towards William, and having to good grace to remain his friend after being rejected sexually shows a generosity of character that not everyone can boast of. Freddie de la Hay was the obvious star of the show though, and as with the dog in Scotland Street, my favourite chapters were the ones that involved him. I think that McCall Smith’s ability to write about dogs without lapsing into sentimentality or excess whimsy is one of the signs of his greatness.

I also greatly enjoyed the chapters involving Berthea and Terence, which combined an amusing view of a particularly British eccentric with a touching exploration of personal loneliness and Berthea’s attempt to connect with her brother. However, the same could not be said of the Caroline and James saga, which was exceptionally tedious and unusually humourless. I felt it took up far too much room that I would have preferred to see used to develop characters such as Basil, who remained little more than a shadow throughout the novel. This is one quibble though, and doesn’t stop me hoping that there will be a second novel appearing this autumn.

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