What a great title! and I was pleased to be offered the chance to read this online novel and report on it on the blog. As you may know a chapter of the novel is appearing every day on Telegraph.co.uk together with a podcast by the wonderful Andrew Sachs.
Now I must straight away admit that I have not, in the past, been a huge fan of Alexander McCall Smith. Not that I have read a great many of his books. I did have a go at the Ladies Detective Agency and was not enthralled, though I very much enjoyed the TV series, unlike many real lovers of the novels. I have also read The Sunday Philosophy Club and found that quite enjoyable. But I have been quite won over by the 12 chapters I've read so far of this recent novel. It is actually a sequel to Corduroy Mansions, which I have not read, I'm afraid -- the publishers promised a copy but that seems to have gone astray somehow.
Anyway, this is a very charming book, and it is making me smile a lot and giggle quite a bit too. I am getting very caught up in the relationship between Caroline and James, a pair of art historians. Caroline is trying to decide between "Man A and Man B", James being Man A. Man B is Tim something, a very attractive photographer, while James is an old friend, and "easy company. Like an old pair of sandals or a battered straw hat, or even a comfortable domestic cat". But despite their four-year friendship James has never kissed her, and seems to regard such a possibility as strange and worryingly unhygienic. Here they are on the London tube:
James knew so much, it seemed to her, far more than she did. And he thought about things that would never cross her mind – such as the meaning of gestures. Why had she not thought about that before?
“As you know,” James went on, looking doubtfully at Caroline (he knows I don’t know,
she thought; he’s just being nice), “as you know, there are certain accepted gestures in
art. Affirmation, for example, is shown by an arm which is lifted to face the spectator, the
back of the hand facing outwards. Like this.” James demonstrated, and Caroline saw a
woman on the other side of the carriage watching him intently. Perhaps she knows, she
thought; perhaps she’s an art historian who understands these things. But what were the
odds of three art historians being in one carriage of a London Underground train at the
same time? Very long.
Because the book is set in a block of flats, we get to follow the lives and relationships of a number of characters, all different and all entertaining and intriguing. So if you have not already done so, get over to Telegraph.co.uk and get reading!