Come December, and I wonder once again if The Telegraph will publish the next series of Corduroy Mansions, the delightful serial novel by Alexander McCall Smith. Most of his books leave one wanting to read more, and Corduroy Mansions three was no exception. I wrote this review soon after reading the last chapter of book three which was published online, a chapter a day, in 2010.
“Follow your heart. It’s the only thing to do…the only advice that I think should be taken seriously – taken as unconditionally true – is this: follow your heart. I know it sounds trite, but it’s the only thing to do. Because at the end of the day your heart will stop beating and it will be too late to regret that you didn’t go where it prompted you to go.”
~ Alexander McCall Smith, Corduroy Mansions Book Three
There were many wonderful moments in the book (mild spoilers ahead) such as Eddie’s finding work that he finally enjoys, Barbara’s hilarious conversation with the Yeti, Terence’s decision to visit India armed with good karma in lieu of a visa and best of all, the transformation of the creepy Oedipus which was at the same time hilarious and thought-provoking.
The concluding chapter left too many questions open and hanging unresolved. William has always thought of Marcia as a good friend and nothing more. It was hard to believe that his feelings for her changed when she revealed that she read Iris Murdoch. It would have been nicer to see him with someone like Berthea who is his equal in intellect and sensitivity. Maggie’s declaration of love for William came as a shock and a surprise, and William acted just as one would have expected that decent, kind gentleman to do. I almost expected that the conspiracy in the title referred to a conspiracy between Maggie and Marcia, to get William to finally propose to the latter. The sub-plot with Freddie de la hay lost and Freddie found again did not really gel into the rest of the plot, but then scenes involving Freddie are so poignant and full of joy.
Caroline seems to have finally found her soulmate in Ronald. In spite of their smug, interfering mothers, it is wonderful that they have got together. I wish that they get to cook risotto together for a lifetime. Will Caroline patch up with James as a friend? James was an interesting character in his own way. As sad and strange as Hugh’s backstory was, it was sadder that it has affected his relationship with Barbara. Will they get together again?
One did not really miss Dee with her obsession on colonic irrigation, or Jo. But it would have been good to see more of Jenny, the Yeti, Basil, Berthea’s biography of Snark and a reformed Eddie working hard at his new job.
Above all I missed the verse that usually concludes the Scotland Street and Corduroy Mansions books, but the good Professor more than made it up with this marvellous vignette of Scotland Street.
I have said it before and I say it again, I sincerely hope that Professor McCall Smith gets the Nobel prizes for literature and peace. The world needs more of his books that make one aware of the fragility, the little weaknesses, the strengths, the joys and the pains, the agony and the ecstasy of being human. Books that help one see the rest of humanity in a clearer light, that help us all to understand each other a little better. Books that help one to retain the faith that goodness, decency and morality will continue to prevail in the world. That there is still hope for the world.
Though I love almost every book of fiction by Alexander McCall Smith, I like his Von Igelfeld stories best and after that, the many views of life on Scotland Street. Omar Khayyam defined his paradise as a jug of wine and his lady by his side. Someone else wanted a certain newspaper and a cup of tea. Or it might have been filter coffee. I forget which writer said that, and whether he had mentioned coffee or tea. For me it is hot chocolate, good music and a Scotland Street book on a quiet evening at the end of a hard day’s work. That is one kind of paradise.
The poets were not always right. In spite of what Rupert Brooke said, there is a lot of comfort to be had in the wise.
Coming soon! The Re-engineers (HarperCollins) A walk through the boundaries between fiction and reality