Sunshine in Scotland

Sunshine on Scotland StreetEven though it may be hard to find on a map, you can visit Carding, Vermont any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Coming Up for Air, will be out later this year.

Today in town news, it’s a book review from Carding’s librarian, Jane Twitchell. A box of new books has just arrived for the shelves of the Frost Free Library and she can’t wait to share them with the town’s readers.

You are welcome (and encouraged) to share all the news from Carding with your friends, co-workers, and the family members that you like best. This news is guaranteed to be a good read with that first cup of tea in the morning.

Sunshine on Scotland Street
a review by Jane Twitchell

I believe that books serve purposes that are far beyond their entertainment value. They provide solace in dark hours, wit to lighten the sadder patches in life, philosophical reveries, knowledge and comfort, among other emotional necessities.

Personally, I think that Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith provides all of the above in all of his books. If I had to choose just one word to describe his work, it would be “kind.” Even his most buffoonish characters (and there are any number of those in his books) are treated with a certain respect. Yes, he seems to say, we know this person is: A. Silly or B. Awful or C. Pretentious but that doesn’t mean we must hate them or revile them. We don’t have to have dinner with them but the least we can is nod cordially on the street when we pass.

McCall Smith is an amazingly prolific author. He has a handful of stand-alone novels but I suspect that most of his fans have a favorite series that they follow avidly, either the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency or Corduroy Mansions or the Isabel Dalhousie novels.

I confess to a particular fondness for the 44 Scotland Street books, a series that is focused on the fortunes and misfortunes of the tenants of a building at this address in Edinburgh, Scotland. Some of the tenants have moved out by now but McCall Smith doesn’t neglect them. There’s artist Angus Lordie and his new wife Domenica, the uncertain Pat and her former roommate Bruce (a narcissist’s narcissist), Big Lou and her coffee shop, and most of all, the always suffering but beloved Bertie who is cursed with a mother that…well…let’s just say that I hope Bertie turns 18 sometime soon so that he can escape from Irene while his good heart is still intact.

I think what I enjoy most are the largish helpings of musings and philosophizing that thread their way through these books. Let me give you a sample that struck me in Sunshine On Scotland Street. I cherish this quote because it reflects my attitude toward the place I call home.

“We have to have some meaningful sense of the local in order to understand what our shared humanity is. If you take that away from people—as is happening—then they don’t know who they are and that means they don’t care very much about others. You’ll get a crude materialism, because material is all that we will have in common. You’ll get vast, anonymous societies where we are all strangers to one another. We get much of our humanity from the local, the immediate, the small-scale. We do, you know.”

These are all delicious dips in the word pool. You can read them out of order but you’ll miss the chance to savor some of the best nuances if you don’t start from the beginning.

Come visit the library. There are lots of new books to read, some new movies, and copies of the New York Times crossword puzzle for the word-addicted among you. The Frost Free Library is open from 1p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9a.m. to 5p.m. on Saturdays. Closed on Sundays.

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