Review published on August 18, 2017.
I’m a great fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie novels but this is the first one of the 44 Scotland Street series that I have read. I knew it was part of a long running serial but not knowing the history of the past and present tenants wasn’t a problem as personality and relationships soon become apparent. Perhaps having a large cast of characters is a little confusing but the general impression you are left with is of having snippets of gossip about people who you once knew but are no longer close to.
Not a lot happens – one character gets into an embarrassing situation, another nearly gets involved with an obnoxious ex-boyfriend – but the main focus perhaps is on the delightful seven-year-old Bertie. His father, Stuart, at last stands up to his domineering wife, Irene, and also to his some of his work colleagues. I found this part rather unsatisfactory as Irene is more of a caricature than a developed character and the work situation is satire.
The aspect of McCall Smith’s books that I always enjoy are his digressions, anecdotes and musings and thankfully there is a lot of that here. I also enjoyed some of the comic situations – Matthew, embarrassed to be seen reading Fifty Shades of Grey, hides it, tries to run away and ends up being wanted by the police.
I still prefer the Isabel Dalhousie books, probably because she feels like a very real character and I like the philosophising about the moral dilemmas and issues she faces. Here I didn’t feel sympathy for any of the characters apart from Bertie. I did though enjoy the emphasis on everyday happenings, small changes, the waxing and waning of love in relationships and ordinary life.
Berwyn Peet 4/2
A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith
Polygon 9781846973826 hbk Jul 2017
Cheltenham Literature Festival 2017 – line-up and Q&A