44 Scotland Street
First edition cover
|Author||Alexander McCall Smith|
|Published||2004-2005 (The Scotsman) (serial)
2005 (Polygon Books) (book form)
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Serial|
|Pages||368 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 1-904598-16-1 (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PR6063.C326 A613 2005b|
|Followed by||Espresso Tales, Love over Scotland, The World According to Bertie, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, The Importance of Being Seven, Bertie Plays the Blues, Sunshine on Scotland Street|
44 Scotland Street is an episodic novel by Alexander McCall Smith, the author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. The story was first published as a serial in The Scotsman, starting 26 January 2004, every weekday, for six months. The book retains the 100+ short chapters of the original. It was partially influenced by Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, a famous serial story.
The novel tells the story of Pat, a student during her second gap year and a source of some worry to her parents, who is accepted as a new tenant at 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh's New Town, and her various roommates and neighbours. She falls in love with her narcissistic flatmate Bruce, meets the intriguing and opinionated anthropologist Domenica MacDonald and her friend Angus, and works at an art gallery for Matthew, who was given the gallery as a sinecure position by his wealthy father. While working at the gallery Pat points out to Matthew (who knows almost nothing about art) that one of their paintings looks as if it could be a work of Samuel Peploe. After the gallery is broken into Matthew asks Pat to store the painting at their flat until they can check whether it's a genuine Peploe, however Bruce gives the painting to a raffle run by the South Edinburgh Conservative Association. Matthew and Pat eventually track it down to the novelist Ian Rankin who gives it back to them. The other major storyline is that of five-year-old Bertie, who is controlled by his pretentious and intellectual mother Irene - he has Grade Six on the saxophone, speaks fluent Italian, and is extremely knowledgeable about various subjects. After he is expelled from his nursery school Irene sends him to psychotherapy with Dr Fairbairn, who constantly misinterprets Bertie's simple wish to be a normal five-year-old boy on Oedipal and Freudian lines.
Smith followed the original serial novel with another series set in Edinburgh, The Sunday Philosophy Club Series. The story of the characters in 44 Scotland Street is continued in his serialized novel Espresso Tales.
Major recurring characters
- Pat MacGregor is twenty (see above)
- Matthew Duncan, owner of an art gallery and Pat's boss
- Bertie Pollock, 5-year old saxophone player who can also speak Italian, son of the dreadful Irene
- Irene Pollock, Bertie's mother, busybody and disciple of Melanie Klein
- Domenica MacDonald, their neighbour
- Bruce Anderson, Pat's narcissistic flatmate
- Angus Lordie, portrait painter and owner of Cyril
- Big Lou, owner of coffee bar
- Cyril, Angus's dog with the gold tooth
- Stuart Pollock, Bertie's statistician father
- Dr. Hugo Fairbairn, Bertie's psychoanalyst
- Elspeth Harmony, Bertie's teacher
- Ian Rankin, Scottish novelist of Rebus fame
- Aloysius (Lard) O'Connor, Glasgow "business man" with the physique of a Munro
- Ramsey Dunbarton, retired lawyer whose main claim to fame is his erstwhile performance as the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers
Literary significance and reception
Publishers Weekly said that 44 Scotland Street was "episodic, amusing and peopled with characters both endearing and benignly problematic." Library Journal said that "Smith's insightful and comic observations, makes for an amusing and absorbing look at Edinburgh society." Bookseller said that "the writing style is understated, and the humour subtle but at times devastating."