Friday, April 25, 2008

Love Over Scotland

Alexander McCall Smith is a writer that I don't hear that much about in the book blogging world. I'm not sure why, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that he writes the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I've read a couple of those (there are 8 now) and enjoyed them. I know there are some who feel that prolific mystery writers shouldn't be taken seriously. That's a shame. Those people are missing out on some really good books. Smith is a wonderful writer. He has an amazing wit, which often has me laughing out loud. He also does more than this one series. He writes The Sunday Philosophy Club series, which is set in Edinburgh. This series is actually my favorite. And then there's the Portugese Irregular Verbs series, numerous children's books, collections of African folk tales, a reworking of a Celtic myth for the Cannongate Myths series and academic texts. As you can see, he's a very interesting person. I'll let him tell you about himself. This is from his official website:

McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and was educated there and in Scotland. He became a law professor in Scotland, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa to work in Botswana, where he helped to set up a new law school at the University of Botswana. For many years he was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, and has been a visiting professor at a number of other universities elsewhere, including ones in Italy and the United States. He is now a Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh.

In addition to his university work, McCall Smith was for four years the vice-chairman of the Human Genetics Commission of the UK, the chairman of the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee, and a member of the International Bioethics Commission of UNESCO. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Crime Writers' Association Dagger in the Library Award; the United Kingdom's Author of The Year Award in 2004 and Sweden's Martin Beck award. In 2007 he was made a CBE for his services to literature in the Queen's New Year Honors List.

Alexander McCall Smith currently lives in Edinburgh with his wife Elizabeth (an Edinburgh doctor), and their two daughters Lucy and Emily. His hobbies include playing wind instruments, and he is the co-founder of an amateur orchestra called "The Really Terrible Orchestra" in which he plays the bassoon and his wife plays the horn.

O.K., finally let me tell you a little about the book I just finished, Love Over Scotland. This is the third installment of the 44 Scotland series, which began as a serial in The Scotsman newspaper. This book continues to look at the lives of the main characters of 44 Scotland Street. There's Domenica MacDonald, an anthropologist who has just left for the Malacca Straits to study modern-day pirates. Then, there's Irene and Stuart Pollock and their precocious six-year old Bertie. In addition, there's Pat, Matthew, and Angus Lordie, along with his dog, Cyril. Smith follows the everyday lives of these characters and gives us a glimpse into the life of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. I have to admit that I wasn't as thrilled with this book as the first two in the series, but it was still really good. If you haven't yet discovered this author, please give him a try. He has much to offer no matter what you're in the mood for.


Nymeth said...

I completely fell in love with his writing in Dream Angus. What a great book that was, one of my favourites of last year. I really need to give this series a try. The fact that some of his books are set in Edinburgh only makes them more appealing!

Dorothy W. said...

Well -- he does sound quite interesting! I had no idea he wrote such a wide variety of things. I'll have to read him one of these days.

Lisa said...

nymeth, I really liked Dream Angus, as well. The Sunday Philosophy Club (Edinburgh) is definitely my favorite. Isabel Dalhousie is the main character, and she is wonderful. She's smart and has a dry wit that is very charming. She's the editor of a philosophy journal, and she has all these internal monologues about everyday things. I love it. There is usually some time of mystery to be solved, but it's secondary. It's not the main focus of the book.

dorothy, I was surprised to learn just how varied his interests are, as well. I guess you could say he's a modern day renaissance man. I would suggest starting with the Sunday Philosophy Club if you ever decide to read something by him.

Tara said...

I keep saying I need to try this author. I need to try this author!!! I will, one of these days. I enjoyed your post very much.

Anonymous said...

I have this one in my stack, after enjoying the first two in this series. I really like the Sunday Philosophy Club series. I love Isabel and her relationship with Jamie (and now they have a baby!)

Thanks for the review of this one :) I may read it next.

Lisa said...

tara, thanks. Do give him a try sometime. I really enjoy his style of writing.

ravenousreader, I'm so glad you've enjoyed some of his work. I was beginning to think that maybe I was the only one reading him. It felt kind of like a guilty pleasure. I love Isabel and the way in which she thinks so deeply about every detail of life. I was very happy when she and Jamie got together. I already have the next one on pre-order at Amazon.

Danielle said...

I really need to read him. I did try the first Ladies Detective Agency book, but I didn't finish it--I think it was me rather than the book and I bet if I picked it up now I would enjoy it. I've always wondered about this series as well. Is it also a mystery series?

Lisa said...

The 44 Scotland Street series is not a mystery series, but The Sunday Philosophy Club series is. However, the mystery is usually secondary to the story if that makes sense.