Corduroy Mansions (Corduroy Mansions Series #1)

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Corduroy Mansions (Corduroy Mansions Series #1)

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[McCall Smith] returns with a new cast of characters to love . . . fans will be grateful that the series has just begun. A-"
Entertainment Weekly

"Filled with charming eccentrics . . . McCall Smith, a master of weaving the many strands of his complex stories together, does so here with supreme virtuosity."
The Washington Post

The indefatigable Scotsman's latest exercise in grace and good manners . . . McCall Smith is the P.G. Wodehouse of our time, and we should be grateful for his prolificacy."
—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"As ever, McCall Smith is droll, philosophical, full of original insights, and above all, entertaining."
—Bookreporter

Praise from the United Kingdom
 
“Quirky and original . . . Told with warmth, wit and intelligence, and McCall Smith’s cast of characters are beautifully observed. It’s a page-turner with many happy endings. Perfect.”
Daily Express
 
“The author’s gentle humor and playful teasing-out of moral dilemmas great and small are there in abundance.”
The Scotsman
 
“[Full] of warmth and wisdom and easy, accomplished writing that begs for a comfy chair.”
The Times (London)
 
“The seriousness is always sugar-dusted in McCall Smith’s delight in the ridiculous and his perfectly paced humour.”
The Daily Telegraph

From the Hardcover edition.

Eugenia Zukerman
…a delicious story that seems part Restoration comedy and part Victorian novel, tossed with a dash of mystery and a dollop of satire…McCall Smith, a master of weaving the many strands of his complex stories together, does so here with supreme virtuosity. He satirizes the manners and mores of his characters and their society but, as always, remains deeply affectionate toward his flawed cast. And so, Dear Reader, will you.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
McCall Smith's latest is cut from the same cloth as the 44 Scotland Street series and follows the residents of a three-story Pimlico flat. William, a wine merchant, is a London Angus Lordy, both philosophical and innocent in regard to the ways of women. Freddy de la Hay, a "Pimlico Terrier," is a smaller version of Angus's dog, Cyril. As in all McCall Smith's series, most characters are kind, if a bit befuddled by the curves life throws them. The talented Simon Prebble narrates the vignettes with vigorous aplomb. In particular, he captures parliamentary member Oedipus Snark's innate nastiness, William's altruistic temperament, and his friend Marcia's hopeless attachment to him. Though the characters are less well individualized than in previous series, there are still many mirthful moments that will entertain McCall Smith fans. A Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, May 24). (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307476500
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/31/2011
  • Series: Corduroy Mansions Series , #1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 311,054
  • Product dimensions: 7.84 (w) x 5.26 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith
Law professor Alexander McCall Smith had already written more than 50 books before inventing the heroine for his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series: Precious Ramotswe, the only female P.I. in Botswana. The books are as unconventional as their good-humored heroine, who relies on common sense -- and a few tidbits gleaned from Agatha Christie -- to solve her cases.

Biography

Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and went to school in Bulawayo, near the Botswana border. Although he moved to Scotland to attend college and eventually settled in Edinburgh, he always felt drawn to southern Africa and taught law for a while at the University of Botswana. He has written a book on the criminal law of Botswana, and among his successful children's books is a collection of African folk tales, Children of Wax.

Eventually, Smith had an urge to write a novel about a woman who would embody the qualities he admired in the people of Botswana, and the result, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, was a surprise hit, receiving two special Booker citations and a place on the Times Literary Supplement's International Books of the Year and the Millennium list. "The author's prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision," Anthony Daniels wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. "His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswanan landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven't read anything with such unalloyed pleasure for a long time."

Despite the book's success in the U.K., American publishers were slow to take an interest, and by the time The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was picked up by Pantheon Books, Smith had already written two sequels. The books went from underground hits to national phenomena in the United States, spawning fan clubs and inspiring celebratory reviews. Smith is also the author of a detective series featuring the insatiably curious philosopher Isabel Dalhousie and the 44 Scotland Street novels, which present a witty portrait of Edinburgh society

In an interview on the publisher's web site, Smith says he thinks the country of Botswana "particularly chimes with many of the values which Americans feel very strongly about -- respect for the rule of law and for individual freedom. I hope that readers will also see in these portrayals of Botswana some of the great traditional virtues in Africa -- in particular, courtesy and a striking natural dignity."

Good To Know

As a professor at Edinburgh Law School, Smith specializes in criminal law and medical law, and has written about the legal and ethical aspects of euthanasia, medical research, and medical practice.

When he isn't writing books or teaching, Smith finds time to play the bassoon in the candidly named amateur ensemble he co-founded, The Really Terrible Orchestra.

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Read an Excerpt

Corduroy Mansions

A Novel
By Alexander Mccall Smith

Pantheon

Copyright © 2010 Alexander Mccall Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307379085

1. In the Bathroom

Passing off, thought William. Spanish sparkling wine—filthy stuff, he thought, filthy—passed itself off as champagne. Japanese whisky—Glen Yakomoto!—was served as Scotch. Inferior hard cheese—from Mafia-run factories in Catania—was sold to the unsuspecting as Parmesan.

Lots of things were passed off in one way or another, and now, as he stood before the bathroom mirror, he wondered if he could be passed off too. He looked at himself, or such part of himself as the small mirror encompassed-just his face, really, and a bit of neck. It was a fifty-one-year-old face chronologically, but would it pass, he wondered, for a forty-something-year-old face?

He looked more closely: there were lines around the eyes and at the edge of the mouth but the cheeks were smooth enough. He pulled at the skin around the eyes and the lines disappeared. There were doctors who could do that for you, of course: tighten things up; nip and tuck. But the results, he thought, were usually risible. He had a customer who had gone off to some clinic and come back with a face like a Noh-play mask-all smoothed out and flat. It was sad, really. And as for male wigs, with their stark, obvious hairlines, all one wanted to do was to reach forward and give them a tug. It was quite hard to resist, actually, and once, as a student-and when drunk-he had done just that. He had tugged at the wig of a man in a bar and . . . the man had cried. He still felt ashamed of himself for that. Best not to think about it.

No, he was weathering well enough and it was far more dignified to let nature take its course, to weather in a National Trust sort of way. He looked again at his face. Not bad. The sort of face, he thought, that would be hard to describe on the Wanted poster, if he were ever to do anything to merit the attention of the police-which he had not, of course. Apart from the usual sort of thing that made a criminal of everybody: "Wanted for illegal parking," he muttered. "William Edward French (51). Average height, very slightly overweight (if you don't mind our saying so), no distinguishing features. Not dangerous, but approach with caution."

He smiled. And if I were to describe myself in one of those lonely hearts ads? Wine dealer, widower, solvent, late forties-ish, GSOH, reasonable shape, interested in music, dining out etc., etc., WLTM presentable, lively woman with view to LTR.

That would be about it. Of course one had to be careful about the choice of words in these things; there were codes, and one might not be aware of them. "Solvent" was clear enough: it meant that one had sufficient money to be comfortable, and that was true enough. He would not describe himself as well off, but he was certainly solvent. "Well off," he had read somewhere, now meant disposable assets of over . . . how much? More than he had, he suspected.

And "reasonable shape"? Well, if that was not strictly speaking true at present, it would be shortly. William had joined a gym and been allocated a personal trainer. If his shape at present was not ideal, it soon would be, once the personal trainer had worked on him. It would take a month or two, he thought, not much more than that. So perhaps one might say, shortly to be in reasonable shape.

Now, what about: would like to meet presentable, lively woman. Well, presentable was a pretty low requirement. Virtually anybody could be presentable if they made at least some effort. Lively was another matter. One would have to be careful about lively because it could possibly be code for insatiable, and that would not do. Who would want to meet an insatiable woman? My son, thought William suddenly. That's exactly the sort of woman Eddie would want to meet. The thought depressed him.

William lived with his son. There had been several broad hints dropped that Eddie might care to move out and share with other twenty- somethings, and recently a friend of Eddie's had even asked him if he wanted to move into a shared flat, but these hints had apparently fallen on unreceptive ground. "It's quite an adventure, Eddie," William said. "Everybody at your stage of life shares a flat. Like those girls downstairs. Look at the fun they have. Most people do it."

"You didn't."

William sighed. "My circumstances, Eddie, were a bit different."

"You lived with Grandpa until he snuffed it."

"Precisely. But I had to, don't you see? I couldn't leave him to look after himself."

"But I could live with you until you snuff it."

"That's very kind of you. But I'm not planning to snuff it just yet."

Then there had been an offer to help with a mortgage—to pay the deposit on a flat in Kentish Town. William had even gone so far as to contact an agent and find a place that sounded suitable. He had looked at it without telling Eddie, meeting the agent one afternoon and being shown round while a litany of the flat's—and the area's—advantages was recited.

William had been puzzled. "But it doesn't appear to have a kitchen," he pointed out.

The agent was silent for a moment. "Not as such," he conceded. "No. That's correct. But there's a place for a sink and you can see where the cooker used to be. So that's the kitchen space. Nowadays people think in terms of a kitchen space. The old concept of a separate kitchen is not so important. People see past a kitchen."

In spite of the drawbacks, William had suggested that Eddie should look at the place and had then made his proposition. He would give him the deposit and guarantee the mortgage.

"Your own place," he said. "It's ideal."

Eddie looked doubtful. "But it hasn't got a kitchen, Dad. You said so. No kitchen."

William took this in his stride. "It has a kitchen space, Eddie. People see past an actual kitchen these days. Didn't you know that?"

But Eddie was not to be moved. "It's kind of you, Dad. I appreciate the offer, but I think it's premature. I'm actually quite comfortable living at home. And it's greener, isn't it? Sharing. It makes our carbon footprint much smaller."

And so William found himself living with his twenty-four-year-old son. Wine dealer, he thought, would like his son to meet a lively woman with view to his moving in with her. Permanently. Any area.

He turned away from the bathroom mirror and stooped down to run his morning bath. It was a Friday, which meant that he would open the business half an hour late, at ten-thirty rather than ten. This meant that he could have his bath and then his breakfast in a more leisurely way, lingering over his boiled egg and newspaper before setting off; a small treat, but a valued one.

There was a knocking on the door, soft at first and then more insistent.

"You're taking ages, Dad. What are you doing in there?"

He did not reply.

"Dad? Would you mind hurrying up? Or do you want me to be late?"

William turned and faced the door. He stuck out his tongue.

"Don't be so childish," came the voice from the other side of the door.

Childish? thought William. Well, you've got a little surprise coming your way, Eddie, my boy.

Continues...

Excerpted from Corduroy Mansions by Alexander Mccall Smith Copyright © 2010 by Alexander Mccall Smith. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

1. This book was originally published online in serialized chapters. Do you find it flows differently than other novels by Alexander McCall Smith? If so, how?

2. Alexander McCall Smith said of Corduroy Mansions: “These stories are character-based: what interests me is what makes the characters tick rather than intricate and potentially confusing plots.” Pick your favorite character and explain what you think makes him or her tick.

3. Freddie de la Hay is given as much personality as the humans in this story, yet his previous owner only refers to him as a social experiment. What do you think about training a dog to wear a seat belt and be a vegetarian?

4. Which of the characters do you most identify with? Is this also your favorite character?

5. Marcia seems to be manipulating William’s living situation to fit her needs. Is this because she is lonely? Does she have William’s best interest at heart?

6. Eddie is not a positive character in this story. How much of Eddie’s behavior appears to be typical of an early-twenty-something? Are William’s opinions guided too much by Marcia? What is your opinion of Eddie by the end of the book?

7. The problem of the Poussin painting garners different reactions from the characters involved with it. William sees a moral quandary in dealing with his son. Marcia doesn’t even think of the moral implications. What would you do if you were William?

8. Caroline wishes to help James discover the truth behind his proclivities, but she also wants to date him. Do you think Caroline is more self-interested or more altruistic?

9. As Jenny leaves Basil Wickramsinghe’s apartment, she overhears his visitor asking if Jenny is “a sympathiser.” What could this mean? Do you think he is involved in an illegal activity?

10. Jenny works for the odious Oedipus Snark. The MP clearly does not treat her well, nor any other woman with whom he interacts. Why do you think Jenny works for him? Why does Barbara Ragg stay with Snark?

11. Oedipus seems a little too interested in Barbara’s new book. What would he do with the tale of a Yeti? How would public reaction to the announcement of finding a Yeti help his career?

12. Berthea Snark is writing a distinctly non-hagiography of her son. What does this say about her as a mother? Why do you think she’s doing it? Why do you think she named him Oedipus?

13. Terence Moongrove is a bit absentminded. Does his sister, Berthea, overreact to his eccentricities, or is she simply protecting him? What could they learn from each other?

14. Barbara Ragg’s new beau seems too good to be true. Do you trust Hugh? How is your opinion of Hugh influenced by Barbara’s previous poor instincts with men?

15. Many of the characters in this book have feelings of loneliness. Name one and explain what his or her loneliness has driven that person to do. Who finds a way to dispel the feeling, and how is it done?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit: www.readinggroupcenter.com.)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 166 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(76)

4 Star

(26)

3 Star

(35)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(16)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 168 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    this is a fun look at the foibles of human interactions.

    In London, several eccentric people reside at Corduroy Mansions. Wine merchant and connoisseur William wants his twentyish year old son Eddie to move out, but a nuclear bomb is not going to budge his offspring. He gets Freddie the vegan canine whose prime mission is to propel Eddie to move in with people his age. Restaurateur Marcia wants Eddie out of the house also so then she can make a move on empty nester William.

    Another occupant Dee works at a vitamin store where she tries to help a peer who she feels needs to cleans his system of excess salt. Her flat-mate Jenny earns a difficult living working for detestable MP Oedipus Snark, who treats his employee like a low form of dog excrement. Snark's mom Berthea is writing the definitive biography of her son while her agent Barbara wants to become Mrs. MP.

    As the walls crumble around the quirky residents, their squabbles make for an enjoyable slice of London life. Low keyed and not for everyone, fans of the author will enjoy the jocularity of everyday people interrelating in a dysfunctional manner as Corduroy Mansions is sort of like an aging supercollider with the people living there as the subatomic particles being sliced and diced. More like Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street books, than his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, this is a fun look at the foibles of human interactions.

    Harriet Klausner

    17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    What is this book about?

    I was disappointed with this book. I kept waiting for something, anything, to happen, and it never did. The writing is a great character study of some offbeat people, but I found myself wanting more. So many characters and with the shift between points of view, and often I found myself lost and wondering was it Tim or Tom or James, with Marcia, Jenny or Barbara? It was very difficult to put the book down, pick it up a minute later and remember what was going on.

    This is the first book I've read of McCall-Smith's. I am aware of the No. 1 Detective books, so I think I was expecting this to be a mystery as well. I find the Donna Andrews series be to be equally character driven but with more of a plot.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2011

    Wonderful little world to escape into!

    Smith introduces a great cast of interesting characters with unique perceptions on life....all bound together by Corduroy Mansions, where most of them reside. The clear breakout star of the group has to be one Freddie de la Hay, a little terrier whose straightforward ways of viewing the world are awesome. Loved the book so much that I immediately bought the sequel, and it's even better! Freddie has the potential to be Smith's next fictional star!!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2011

    Relax and enjoy

    Smith gently leads us into the lives of his characters, exploring their problems, giving depths to the people involved, and digressing into enjoyable sidelights. A good book for times when you're stressed out and need a good read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2013

    Highly recommend

    This is a charming, fun book! I love the No. ! Lady Detective stories and this one is another hit. I can't wait to read more!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Jaz

    *hearing the gunshot she raced back almost running emma over. She leaped in the air knocking the two guns out of nicos hands and oit of teach. She circled nico teeth bardd ready to kill...~ Jaz the german sheperd

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Ah, those streets of London

    I've enjoyed all the books I've read so far by Alexander McCall Smith, and Corduroy Mansions is no exception-one of those books that can be put down and picked up at any moment. Chapters are delivered in perfect bite-sized increments, characters in surprisingly deep and realistic coffee-cup caricatures, and the streets of London are depicted to the beat of modern coffee-shops while strains of Mozart drift along on the breeze. There are art galleries, art history, a politician of dubious honesty and integrity, flat-sharing young adults and a grown-up youth pondering the workings of his car. At the center of all is wine-merchant William and the flat he shares, variously, with son, lady friend and dog. Of course, it's a wonderful dog-you can tell from his picture on the cover. Corduroy Mansions is the first of a new series, so, of course, I'll be looking for volume 2 as soon as it's in paperback. It's definitely another fun book for McCall Smith fans, and a great place to meet him (and his characters) if you're not already a fan.



    Disclosure: I bought this for myself; I'm a McCall Smith Addict

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Loved It!

    This book easily became one of my all-time favorites! I felt like the characters were very real, as if they were people I knew. I actually read it because I assumed it was going to be a dog story, which turned out to be incorrect, but it was great anyway. (Yes, there is a dog in it, but I wouldn't really say the book is about him.) I would be so excited it the book has a sequel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2014

    FROUNT YARD

    It has a Big yard, and a Fancy Swing, and Playground stuff for the kids to play on. And two giant doors brown wooden doors with gold handles.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Living Room

    This is our living room well our first livng room where Vanessa and madie would play piano

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014

    Interesting characters

    McCall Smith has created interesting characters as usual. It is rather fun encountering his ironies like the art historian deciding he is not gay after all or the dog transitions.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2013

    Bluejay and water

    The sisters looks around.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013

    Scarlet

    Ill buy one a long as he dasnt fight back. Bring him to res 6

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013

    Mir and Adrelle

    Mir just sits there; Adrelle looks freaked out.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2013

    HELP

    Someone please go to kaptain vamp only result and tell evryone that blake is locked out!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

    ?master

    Looks at then

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2013

    Slasher

    Grrr

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    Lilly to pierce

    U here?

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2013

    Mina

    Wow i just said that mabey you should get a hearing aid

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 168 Customer Reviews

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