Is this what is meant by compulsive reading? It’s like eating chips, or enjoying cookies straight out of the oven, it’s impossible to stop at one! As a break before the next ‘heavier’ book I need to read, I thought I would squeeze in another of the 44 Scotland Street series, and yes, it became two! I had to spend just a bit more time with these characters and discover if there would be any break for Bertie from his overbearing mother, any happiness on the horizon for Matthew, and perhaps news on who the father of Ulysses really is. Would Cyril bite anymore ankles and would Stuart ever be able to remember where he parked his car?
Alexander McCall Smith fans will be envious to hear that I had an opportunity to hear him speak at a marvellous old bookstore in London called Daunt Books. The store is an original Edwardian with oak balconies, skylights and a fantastic window. Books seem even more magical on Daunt shelves, and I always buy a book in independent bookstores like this to make sure they can survive. This little gem is a must-see right alongside Big Ben & Buckingham if you ever come to London!
The author was in fine form that evening. What an engaging speaker, and I realized that the reason for his animation is that he truly loves the characters in his books (and that’s why we do too–it’s contagious!). He launched into his talk speaking about Bertie and Isobel and Mma Ramotswe as if they were old friends, his own chuckles bubbling up as he discussed their recent misfortunes or speculated on future foibles. And surely they are ‘old friends’ to all of us, if we know the series well. Palpable in the room of fans was this odd feeling that somehow, though all strangers to each other, we were linked by a group of fictional people!
Here’s a clip from a talk in Toronto where he reads from this instalment–it gives a flavour of what he’s like in person – a delight to listen to.