Sunshine on Scotland Street: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (8) [NOOK Book]

Overview

44 SCOTLAND STREET - Book 8

The residents and neighbors of 44 Scotland Street and the city of Edinburgh come to vivid life in these gently satirical, wonderfully perceptive serial novels, featuring six-year-old Bertie, a remarkably precocious boy—just ask his mother.  


From social media to the finer points of human behavior, this latest episode of Alexander McCall ...
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Sunshine on Scotland Street: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (8)

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Overview

44 SCOTLAND STREET - Book 8

The residents and neighbors of 44 Scotland Street and the city of Edinburgh come to vivid life in these gently satirical, wonderfully perceptive serial novels, featuring six-year-old Bertie, a remarkably precocious boy—just ask his mother.  


From social media to the finer points of human behavior, this latest episode of Alexander McCall Smith's popular 44 Scotland Street series provides an entertaining commentary on a small corner of modern life in Edinburgh where, contrary to received wisdom, the sun nearly always shines.

Angus Lordie and Domenica Macdonald are finally tying the knot. Unsurprisingly, Angus is not quite prepared and averting a wedding-day disaster falls to his best man, Matthew. When the newlyweds finally head off on their honeymoon, Angus's dog Cyril goes to stay with the Pollocks—to the delight of one member of the family, and the utter despair of another. The long-suffering Bertie knows firsthand how stringent his mother's rules can be, and he resolves to help Cyril set off on an adventure. Meanwhile, Big Lou becomes a viral Internet sensation, and the incurable narcissist Bruce meets his match in the form of a doppelganger neighbor, who proposes a plan that could change both their lives.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"McCall Smith gives us each of his characters’ points of view, moving deftly from one to the other. . . . Advancing the action (this latest has a wedding, a doppelgänger, and the continuing adventures of Matthew and Elspeth and the triplet infants) as we learn exactly what characters are thinking of each other and themselves. Humor and insight abound." —Booklist (starred review)

Praise for Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series

"Devilishly clever. . . . Often droll, often touching, the Scotland Street stories are always delightful to read." —Booklist (starred review)

“Written with abundant wit . . . [and] equally large dollops of wisdom too.”  —Scotland on Sunday
 
“Sweet . . .  Graceful . . . Wonderful. . . . Gentle but powerfully addicting fiction.” —Entertainment Weekly
 
“McCall Smith’s assessments of fellow humans are piercing and profound. . . . [His] depictions of Edinburgh are vivid and seamless.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
 “Irresistible . . . Packed with the charming characters, piercing perceptions and shrewd yet generous humor that have become McCall Smith’s cachet.” —Chicago Sun-Times
 
“McCall Smith’s plots offer wit, charm, and intrigue in equal doses.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“The most genial of writers and the most gentle of satirists. . . . [The] characters are great fun . . . [and] McCall Smith treats all of them with affection.” —Rocky Mountain News

Kirkus Reviews
2014-07-03
An eighth season of charminglyfeatherweight escapades, moral dilemmas, and errors committed and corrected andsometimes simply brushed aside by the denizens of 44 Scotland St. and itsEdinburgh environs. Miraculously, anthropologistDomenica Macdonald succeeds in marrying painter Angus Lordie even though Angushas made no arrangements for a wedding ring or a honeymoon or the gaping holein the kilt he plans to wear. No sooner has the happy couple taken their vowsthan the best man, gallery owner Matthew Harmony, is approached by Bo, afilmmaker who's a friend of his triplets' au pair, Anna, who wants to film afly-on-the-wall documentary of Matthew's absolutely normal family, which he'sconvinced Danish audiences will love. Bertie Pollock, the 6-year-old to whomAngus entrusts his beloved dog, Cyril, while he's away, has to deal with thefact that his mother, Irene, doesn't want a dog in the house. Convinced thatsomething ails Cyril, she starts him in psychotherapy, and Bertie contemplatesprotective measures that are bound to backfire. Bertie's father, Stuart, inchescloser to confronting his misgivings about the uncanny resemblance of his babyson Ulysses' ears to those of his wife's former therapist, Dr. Hugo Fairbairn,now prudently decamped to Aberdeen. And in the most inventive of the plots thatswirl and churn and then dissolve, narcissistic surveyor Bruce Anderson meetshis exact physical double, a man who would certainly be his long-lost twinbrother if he had one, and Jonathan proposes a mad scheme Bruce unaccountablyaccepts. A tighter focus on fewer charactersthan the earlier installments (Bertie Plays the Blues, 2013, etc.) doesn't pay offin additional depth or sharper conflict but generates more serial complicationsper capita for a crew that's endlessly open to adventures while remainingimmitigably themselves.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345804419
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/12/2014
  • Series: 44 Scotland Street Series , #8
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 11,298
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

1. Omertà, and Fascinators

Even if she had not been an anthropologist, Domenica Macdonald would have understood the very particular significance of weddings. Anthropologists – and sociologists too, perhaps even more so – often tell us what we already know, or what we expect to hear, or perhaps what we are not surprised to learn. And so we all know, as did Domenica, that weddings are far more than marriage ceremonies; we know that they are occasions for family stock-taking and catharsis; that they furnish opportunities for naked displays of emotion and unscheduled tears; that they are a stage for sartorial and social ostentation; that they are far from the simple public exchange of vows they appear to be.

These insights had been impressed upon Domenica decades earlier by a visiting professor, one Salvatore Santaluca of the Istituto-Antropologico-Sociologico-Culturale of the University of Palermo. Santaluca’s study of the traditional marriage practices of the hill villages of Sicily was something of an anthropological classic, considered by some to be the equal of Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa, exposing the labyrinthine negotiations and discussions that preceded such weddings. Unfortunately, the publication of these details was viewed in some circles in Sicily as a breach of omertà, and the professor had some months later been shot in a restaurant in Messina, a crime that had yet to be solved, largely because those who were charged with investigating it were precisely the people who had committed it. Things had changed since then, of course, and the Italian state had tackled the criminal culture that had for so long blighted its southern regions; too late, though, for Santaluca and the various courageous Italian magistrates and policemen who had taken on the secretive bullies holding an entire state to ransom.

It rather surprised Domenica that she should suddenly think of poor Professor Santaluca after all these years. But it was quite understandable, really, that she should be contemplating the institution of marriage and its customs, given that she was herself about to get married – to Angus Lordie – and was now sitting in her flat in Scotland Street, attended by her friend, Big Lou, preparing for the moment – only three hours away – when she would walk through the door of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Palmerston Place. Her entry would be to the accompaniment of “Sheep May Safely Graze” by Johann Sebastian Bach, this piece having been selected by Angus, who had a soft spot for Bach. Domenica had acceded to this provided that it would be her choice of music to be played as they left. That was Charles Marie Widor’s Toccata, from his Symphony No. 5, a triumphant piece of music if ever there was one.

“People will love it,” she said. “It’s such a statement.”

“Of what?” Angus had asked.

“Of the fact that the marriage has definitely taken place,” said Domenica. “It’s not a piece of music that admits of any . . . how should I put it? . . . uncertainty.”

“Maybe,” said Angus. “It’s the opposite of peelie-wersh, I suppose.”

Domenica was interested. As with many Scots expressions, the meaning of peelie-wersh was obvious, even to those who had never encountered the term before. “And which composers would be peelie-wersh?”

“Some of the minimalists. The ones who use two or three notes. The ones you have to strain to hear. Thin music. Widor is thickly textured.”

They had moved on to discuss the hymns. Domenica felt vaguely uncomfortable when it came to hymns. She understood why people sang them – they performed a vital bonding function and undoubtedly buoyed the spirits – but she felt that the words rarely bore close examination, mostly being rather sentimental and somewhat repetitive. There were exceptions, of course: the words of “For Those in Peril on the Sea” were cogent and to the point. It was entirely reasonable, she felt, particularly in an age of global warming and rising sea levels, to express the desire that “the mighty ocean deep / Its own appointed limits keep.” But could one sing that at a wedding? One might at a mariner’s nuptials, perhaps, but neither she nor Angus were sailors. And then there was “Fight the Good Fight” which again had a perfectly clear message, but was clearly inappropriate for a wedding service, unless, of course, it was that of a pugilist, in which case the words would be taken as referring to professional rather than marital conflicts. “Jerusalem” was inspirational but referred to England, rather than to Scotland, and would seem quite out of place in a Scottish wedding. “Jerusalem” was inappropriate, too, Domenica felt, because right at its opening it asked a question to which the answer was almost certainly no. Its first line, stirring and dramatic though it may be, “And did those feet in ancient times . . .” invited the firm answer No, they certainly did not, words which could perhaps be set to music to be sung as a descant by the choir.

Angus had not been particularly helpful in his suggestions. He had himself composed the words of a hymn some time ago when he had offered to the hymn revision committee of the Church of Scotland a composition called “God Looks Down on Belgium.” The opening words of this hymn, however, proved to be not quite what the committee wanted: “God’s never heard of Belgium / But loves it just the same / For God is kind and doesn’t mind / He’s not impressed with fame.” The second verse was even more unsuitable, making reference to Captain Haddock and Tintin, both of whom, it was felt, had no place in a modern, or any, hymn book.

“You do remember that I wrote a hymn called ‘God Looks Down on Belgium’?” said Angus.

Domenica gave him a warning glance. “I do indeed, Angus, and we are certainly not having that.”

“Pity. I always rather liked it.”

Now, sitting at her dressing table, while Big Lou attempted to fix on the fascinator she had acquired at great expense from a milliner in Fife – “One hundred and eighty pounds for four feathers!” Big Lou had exclaimed – Domenica remembered her first wedding. That had been so different. It had taken place in India, in Kerala, where she had married the eldest son of a Cochin mercantile family and had become for a brief time Mrs. Varghese.

That wedding, like many Indian weddings, had lasted for days, with legions of relatives and friends coming from all over India and beyond. It had not been a particularly happy marriage and was very brief, her husband being electrocuted in the small electricity factory owned by his family. She regretted him, but, if she was honest with herself, she did not miss him unduly; nor did she miss her former mother-in-law. Angus came with no family baggage of that sort – except for his dog Cyril.

Domenica knew that she was taking on Cyril, but felt that given a choice – between an impossible mother-in-law or a dog – many might choose the latter . . . discreetly, of course.

2. Late Climbers

“Does it really matter what I wear?” asked Domenica. “This obsession with the bride’s outfit is understandable when the bride is twenty-something, but in my case . . .”

“Everybody will be just as interested,” said Big Lou, still struggling with the fascinator she was attempting to pin into Domenica’s hair. “It doesn’t matter how old the bride is . . . not that you’re all that old, Domenica.”

She was not quite sure how old Domenica was. Forty-five? A bit more? Or less, perhaps? And Angus was difficult to date too: in some lights he looked as if he was barely into his forties; in others, he looked considerably older. He was one of those people who could have been anything.

“I suppose age adds character,” said Domenica. “Or so we can console ourselves.” She looked in the mirror. It would have been ridiculous to wear a conventional bridal dress. It would have been mutton dressed up as lamb, she thought – a metaphor that would mean less and less as people forgot about the distinction. Where could one buy mutton these days? It seemed more or less to have dis­­appeared; everything, it seemed, was lamb because lambs presumably did not have the chance to reach muttonhood. So the expression would go, and the language would be further impoverished. Tell that not in Gath. That had gone completely by now, as had the habit of piling Pelion upon Ossa. Or making it to the altar. To the what? a contemporary teenager might be expected to ask. Down the aisle. Down the what?

“Yes,” said Big Lou through lips pursed to hold two hairpins. “I can’t be doing with those smooth faces that you see on film stars. You know the sort? All smooth – no lines. Nothing that shows us where the face has been.”

“A few lines,” agreed Domenica. “But one would hardly like to look too much like a prune.” She paused. The fascinator was not going to hold; she was sure of it. “Or like W. H. Auden.”

“The loon with the wrinkly face?”

“Yes. His face was described as looking like a wedding cake left out in the rain.”

Big Lou laughed. “It was a good face.”

“Yes. He referred to it as a geological catastrophe. And of course he smoked, which must have made it worse. The kippering effect.” She paused again. “You know something, Lou? I feel slightly embarrassed about all this.”

“About getting married?”

“Yes. I just don’t know . . .”

Big Lou laid a hand on her shoulder. “Haud your wheesht! It’s fine getting married at your age, for goodness’ sake. You’re still a spring chicken compared with some.”

Spring chicken, thought Domenica: another meat metaphor. So much of our language is still based on the things we used to do – like knowing where food came from. It was good of Big Lou, of course, but the fact remained: this was a late wedding.

“Everything’s changed when it comes to age,” Big Lou went on reassuringly. “Remember how people used to give up early? Remember how our parents’ generation behaved? They put on carpet slippers when they were in their fifties. They did, you know.”

“I was going to agree,” said Domenica. “I was thinking of my father. He retired from the Bank of Scotland when he was fifty-six and he stopped driving at the same time. He said he was too old. Whereas today . . .”

“People run marathons at seventy.”

Domenica nodded, inadvertently loosening the fascinator. “Exactly.”

“Keep your head still,” muttered Big Lou. “I’m going to have to do it again.”

“And they climb Everest, or try to, in their seventies.”

“That’s going too far,” said Big Lou. “But you can certainly take fifteen years off everything these days.” She paused. “But you can’t take height off a mountain.”

“So forty is the new . . .”

“Twenty-five. And fifty is the new thirty-five. It’s all a question of attitude.”

Domenica smiled. “So I shouldn’t feel embarrassed about getting married at . . . at the age I am?”

Big Lou finished with the fascinator. “No. And that bunnet, if you can call it that – that wee bawbee’s worth of over-priced feathers isn’t going to move now.”

Domenica felt at the delicate construction: it seemed firmly embedded. “Thank you, Lou. And thank you for being my bridesmaid.”

“Two auld hens together,” said Big Lou.

Domenica stood up and allowed Lou to smooth out her dress. She had chosen silver-grey Thai silk that had been made into a strikingly smart suit. Grey T-bar high-heel shoes completed the picture of elegance.

She looked at Lou. “Do you think I’m doing the right thing?”

“Marrying Angus? Of course I do. I wouldn’t have agreed to be bridesmaid if I didn’t.”

“I suppose not,” mused Domenica. “Can you imagine a bridesmaid who fundamentally disapproved of the groom? She’d have to stand there and shake her head ominously as the service went ahead. And perhaps the occasional glance at the congregation to say, Not my doing, any of this.”

Big Lou smiled. “Well, I have no reservations in this case. Except maybe . . .” She stopped herself, but it was too late.

Domenica looked at her anxiously. “Except what, Lou?”

Lou shook her head. “Nothing.”

“Come on, Lou, you can’t say ‘except that’ and then leave it at that.”

Big Lou looked down at the floor. “Well, it’s just that . . . well, about a year or so ago when Angus was in the coffee bar, he left his briefcase behind. You know that leather thing he carries . . . Well, he left it and I took it behind the counter to look after it for him and an envelope fell out.” She stared at Domenica. “There was a typed name and address on it and I couldn’t help but notice it as I picked it up.”

Domenica held her breath. “Go on.”

Big Lou lowered her voice. “The envelope was addressed to Mrs. A. Lordie. That’s what it said. Mrs. A. Lordie, and it had his address on it. Drummond Place.”

Domenica stood quite still. She said nothing.

“So I thought: is Angus already married?”

Domenica sat down heavily. The fascinator fell off; the feathers came into their own and it floated gently to the floor, where it lay, a small insubstantial thing, a vanity.

Drummond Place, where Angus Lordie lived, and where, like Domenica, he was now dressing for his wedding, was at the top of Scotland Street. The flat that Angus occupied also served as his studio, and was on the opposite side of the square from the Scotland Street entrance; not that Drummond Place was really a square – parts of it looked as if they belonged to a square, while others were semicircular. It was, he thought, a circle that had run out of architectural room, and had been obliged to draw in its skirts and become a sort of U-topped semi-rectangle; either that, or it had been the work of two architects, one starting at one end in the belief that they were to build a square, and another starting at the other end under the firm impression Drummond Place was to be a circle, or circus. If that is what happened – and of course that was just a fantasy – then Angus imagined the moment of the meeting of the two sides, a moment of trigonometrical tension, no doubt.

Of course buildings can be made to join together without too much difficulty – a bit more stone here and there and one has the necessary coming together; how much more difficult it must be for those builders of bridges who start on opposite banks simultaneously. These must meet in the middle, and meet exactly: even a few inches can be a problem, and to miss by yards would be disastrous: no bridge should have a traffic circle or junction in the middle. And as for tunnels: how fortunate it was that the builders of the Channel Tunnel got it right and met, as planned, in the middle.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 12, 2015

    Does McCall/Smith know that his idiot publishers no longer put o

    Does McCall/Smith know that his idiot publishers no longer put out an audio book for whom
    his books are a balm against our daily commute of 1-1/2 to 2 hours each way?  I own at least
    23 of his books on audio.  Loaning them is dicey as even my sister often fails to return them!  Don't
    leave out your fans in the traffic din without sustenance.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 21, 2014

    Fun Read

    As always McCall Smith makes Scotland Street and little Bertie interesting and fun:)

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

    Posted September 5, 2014

    Another wonderful visit with the characters of Scotland Street.

    Gobbled up this book quickly and then, as always, was bereft because it ended so abruptly (and with the usual poem). I especially enjoyed reading about life from Cyril the dog's point of view and his adventures at home while Angus and Domenica are away on their honeymoon. Now we must wait once more to find out what happens to Bertie and Matthew and all the other wonderful characters, and to the not-so-nice Bruce. (And let's hope that Irene gets her just desserts some day!)

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

    Posted August 31, 2014

    SunShines

    Find Snowclan.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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