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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Shots of Espresso @ 44 Scotland Street, the heart of EDINBURGH

Espresso Tales (no. 2 in the 44 Scotland Street series) by Alexander McCall Smith

"Scotland Street occupies a busy, Bohemian corner of Edinburgh's New Town, where the old haute bourgeoisie finds itself having to rub shoulders with students, poets and portraitists. And number 44 has more than its fair share of the street's eccentrics and failures..." Alexander McCall Smith

I picked this book up to read before realising it is the second in an unintentional series about the inhabitants of 44 Scotland Street, Edinburgh. In the past I have picked up serial books out of sequence and have had difficulty really getting to know the characters. But I continued and was so pleased I did! It does not matter that you are not already familiar with the characters.

This novel is set in Edinburgh and if you know it you will recognise the street names and imagine the cafe where Big Lou will make you a coffee and have a conversation on a philosophical level you would never have dreamt of.

There’s a lot going on for the inhabitants of 44 Scotland Street but the ‘shot’ size chapters make it very manageable and in fact delightful to read. There is a variety of personalities that come alive from one ‘shot’ to the next. Some of them you warm to more than others. One in particular really irritated me, particularly about his views of his home town Crieff; a town I know and enjoy visiting.

Only a month ago I was in Comrie and visited the nissen huts in Cultybraggan, which were used as a prisoner of war camp and army training until 2004. The Comrie Development Trust is now the owner, with plans to make the site available for commercial use and build a Visitors Centre. I was delighted to see reference to this in the early ‘shots’.

Other characters I really warmed to, in particular a 6 year old named Bertie, he really found a place in my heart. He is sadly having a most peculiar upbringing, or maybe not, who am I to judge?  But he is eventually rescued by his father. There’s a wonderful 'shot' or two describing an enjoyable train journey and promises made.

You can picture the retired Ramsey Dunbarton reading aloud his memoirs to his dozing wife. She initially points out some inaccuracies but then decides to maybe let it lie.

Alexander McCall Smith in the preface says he did not find writing the book a chore, on the contrary it was a real pleasure. This is evident as you turn the pages and get to know believable personalities.

I galloped though this book, it was a delight to read, it made me laugh out loud in places too.  I will now seek out the first in the series, the novel that gave the series its title: 44 Scotland Street.

The series in order: 
  1. 44 Scotland Street
  2. Espresso Tales
  3. Love Over Scotland
  4. The World According to Bertie
  5. The Unbearable Lightness of Scones
  6. The Importance of Being Seven
  7. Bertie Plays the Blues
  8. Sunshine on Scotland Street
(And as a little aside, have you noticed how some of the later titles in the series take their inspiration from notable works of fiction? For example, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones is taken from The Unbearable Lightness of Being; The World according to Bertie from The World according to Garp?)

And if you would like to read more novels set in and evocative of Edinburgh, click here

Leah Mons says about The World According to Bertie: "Reading this book is like being with old friends and having a bit of a catch-up! Knowing Edinburgh as I do it is such fun to pick out the streets and imagine the characters walking up and down them as they go about their business. It really brings the city to life for me"

Ann and the TripFiction Team

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