The peppermint tea chronicles A 44 Scotland Street novel

Alexander McCall Smith, 1948-

Book - 2019

Summer has come to Scotland Street. The long days have prompted its denizens to engage in flights of fancy. Some, like the Duke of Johannesburg's plan to create a microlite seaplane, are literal flights, and some, like the vain Bruce Anderson's idea of settling down with one of his many admirers, are more metaphorical. With the domineering Irene off pursuing academic challenges, Stuart and Bertie are free to indulge in summer fun. Stuart reconnects with an old acquaintance over refreshing peppermint tea while Bertie takes his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson to the circus. But their trip to the big top becomes rather more than the pleasant diversion they were hoping for. Once again, Scotland Street teems with the daily triumphs... and challenges of those who call it home, and provides a warm, wise, and witty chronicle of the affairs in this corner of the world.--

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Humorous fiction
New York : Anchor Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC 2019.
Main Author
Alexander McCall Smith, 1948- (author)
Other Authors
Iain McIntosh (illustrator)
Item Description
Series numeration from
"This book is excerpted from a series that originally appeared in The Scotsman newspaper."--Title page verso.
Physical Description
310 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

The 44 Scotland Street series is something of a high-wire act, a cross between soap opera and serialized novel. It began in 2004 when McCall Smith introduced, in sketches in the The Scotsman newspaper, a handful of characters living in an upper-middle-class apartment building in Edinburgh. The action has proceeded at a reflection-filled, leisurely pace but with sudden lurches, advances, and reversals. Almost from the outset, a little boy, Bertie, now seven, the victim of a mother who sees him more as a project than a child, has been the beating heart of the series. In this thirteenth installment, Bertie has been largely freed from his domineering mother, a development that readers who have seen the evil influence of that mother will welcome. New readers, though, may be confused by the way some plot threads are woven and then all but abandoned. And even with the breakneck pace of serialization, there should have been some extra proofing to catch errors (like identifying the Slough of Despond as appearing in Dante, rather than Bunyan). Still, especially for continuing readers, a new Scotland Street will always be a cause for rejoicing.--Connie Fletcher Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In Smith's meandering 13th 44 Scotland Street novel (after 2017's A Time of Love and Tartan), the latest personal developments among the residents of the Edinburgh street will strike many as ho-hum: a child's acquisition of a pet dog, a battle with a bureaucracy over disposing of a dead animal, and a coffee shop owner's fears for her business's future. Cat lovers will be taken aback by an anthropomorphized projection of the life of a dead feline, which, in order to make a pseudo-profound point about its finder's worldview, suggests that the cat couldn't have had an attachment to anything or anyone beyond its own life. Others may find odd one character's attitude that only men can have a sentimental attachment to old clothing. Readers will struggle to care about the child and the coffee shop owner and how their personal stories play out. The author's usual charm and humor aren't enough to redeem a tale without a dominant or memorable story line. Fans of Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective series will be disappointed. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Dec.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

There are changes afoot for Bertie and his family and friends in this next in the popular series by the redoubtable McCall Smith. Bertie is aging, if gracefully, and Irene is having her dramas, but Edinburgh keeps on keeping on. In a handy paperback original format and moving to a fall publication (think holidays).

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

The charmingly imperishable regulars of 44 Scotland St. and environs have reason to wonder: "Was that what life entailed: not doing very much, and doing it every day, in the same place?"After announcing her intention of departing from Edinburgh to pursue graduate studies (and a barely concealed affair) with Dr. Hugo Fairbairn (A Time of Love and Tartan, 2018, etc.), Irene Pollock has finally decamped, leaving her spineless husband, Stuart, and her children, 7-year-old Bertie and baby Ulysses, weak-kneed with relief. Stuart takes the opportunity of his wife's absence to pursue a chaste affair. But Bertie's malevolent schoolmate, Olive, remains as actively present as ever, and her threat to expose a secret Bertie shares with his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson seriously complicates both boys' lives. Finlay, another 7-year-old whom coffee bar owner Big Lou is fostering, turns out to be a ballet prodigywhich would be great news if Lou could only afford the expensive boarding school program his teacher recommends to her. Gallery owner Matthew Harmony is so determined to find a suitable man for his assistant, Pat Macgregor, that he fails to notice how trapped his wife, Elspeth, feels in Nine Mile Burn with the couple's triplet sons. Bruce Anderson, the blandly self-absorbed twit who dumped Pat ages ago, deigns to accept the companionship of Jenny, a looker whose wealthy father owns a distillery. Anthropologist Domenica Macdonald, who once filched a Spode teacup from Antonia Collie, continues to run into her former neighbor, embarrassing moments that are only heightened by Antonia's new flatmate, Sister Maria-Fiore dei Fiori di Montagna, who never met a situation she couldn't dampen with a flat aphorism. Domenica's husband, portrait painter Angus Lordie, descends into a frighteningly believable bureaucratic morass when he seeks to bury the dead cat he's found. Spoiler alert: Most of these complications work out fine, and as for the ones that don't, there's always next year.Fragrant, refreshing, and soothing as a cup ofwell, you know what. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

1 The Plight of Cats in South Australia Domenica Macdonald, anthropologist, resident of Scotland Street, and wife of Angus Lordie, portrait painter and long-standing member of the Scottish Arts Club, sat in the kitchen of her flat in Scotland Street. She was immersed in a magazine she had bought on impulse at the local newsstand, and so did not hear Angus when he asked her about her plans for the day. "I said," repeated Angus, "are you going to be doing anything very much today?" "I'm sorry," said Domenica, looking up from her magazine. "I didn't hear you. I'm reading something here that I can hardly believe." "Ah!" said Angus. "Oscar Wilde." "What about him?" Angus tried to remember exactly what Oscar Wilde had said--he had pronounced on so many things--but found that he could not recall the precise words. "He said something about his diary being sensational reading. Or somebody else's diary. I don't really remember . . ." "It doesn't matter too much if you can't remember exactly what he said," Domenica reassured him. "Wilde will undoubtedly have more to say. Uniquely, perhaps, among those who are no longer with us, he continues to make witty remarks from beyond the grave--people impute them to him, you see. The volume of his quotations grows daily. This article, though, is about cats in South Australia." Angus was puzzled. "What about them?" Domenica shook her head. "They're to be confined." "In what sense?" She looked down at the article. "Apparently cats in South Australia have been eating too many birds and small mammals. They're very destructive, cats." Angus glanced down at his dog Cyril, who was lying under the kitchen table, one eye firmly closed, but with the other slightly open, allowing him to watch his master. Angus was sure that Cyril knew when the conversation concerned him, or in more general terms had something to do with canine issues; the flicker of an eyelid, almost imperceptible, was enough to reveal that Cyril was listening, waiting to see whether the situation developed in such a way as to be of interest to him. Cyril's vocabulary, like that of all dogs, was limited to a few familiar words-- walk, bone, sit , and so on--and one or two adjectives,  good  and  bad  being the most important ones. Beyond that, Cyril's intellectual life was no more than Pavlovian. So when anybody mentioned the Turner Prize, an institution that for Angus stood for everything that was wrong in the contemporary art world, Cyril would dutifully raise a leg. This was not a gesture of contempt, of course, but was a trained response, instilled in Cyril through the use of rewards. Angus found it amusing enough--as did most of his friends--but Domenica had expressed the view that it was childish. Many of the things that men do are childish in the eyes of women, but this was egregiously so. "Really, Angus," she had said when she first saw Cyril performing his new trick. "That's a bit adolescent, surely." Angus was unrepentant. "I have little time for the Turner Prize," he said. "I have no taste for its pretentiousness. I dislike the way it is awarded to people who cannot paint, draw, nor sculpt." His eyes widened; he became slightly red, his breathing shallow--all fairly typical reactions provoked by the Turner Prize in those of sound artistic judgment. "You are not an artist if you merely make a video about paint drying or pile a few  objets trouvés  in a heap. You just aren't." Domenica shrugged. "Calm down," she said. "Installations make us look at the world in a different way. They must have some artistic merit. They challenge us. Isn't that what the Turner Prize is all ab--?" She had stopped herself, but it was almost too late. "Don't say  Turner Prize ," blurted out Angus. "Not when Cyril . . ." But he, too, had spoken without thought of the consequences. "Cyril," he shouted, just as the dog, impervious to the fact that they were indoors at the time, prepared to pass judgment on installation art. "No, Cyril! Sit!" It had been the right--and timeous--counter-command. Cyril, confused, forgot about the Turner Prize and lowered his hindquarters, waiting for further instructions. Now, with Cyril somnolent below the table, the discussion of feline destructiveness continued. "Yes," Angus mused. "Murderous creatures. Birds, in particular. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds gets hot under the collar about cats." Domenica pointed to the article. "This," she said, "tells us what Australian cats get up to--and it makes sobering reading. Nearly four hundred million birds are killed by cats in Australia every year. A lot of those cats are feral, of course, but pet cats, it says, get through over forty million a year. Some of those are threatened species too." She looked up at Angus. "Four hundred million, Angus. Four hundred million." Angus sighed. "It's what cats do, I suppose. Nature's red in tooth and claw, isn't it?" Domenica referred to the article again. "They take their wildlife seriously in Australia, of course. And so . . ." She looked down at the page. "People have to keep their cats under control in cities. You can't let them wander around." Angus frowned. "But you can't keep a cat under control. They're not like dogs. They don't accept our authority." "According to this," Domenica went on, "in South Australia you have to keep the cat in the house or in a cage in the garden. You don't have any option." Angus looked out of the window. Freedom: everywhere, it seemed to him, the boundaries of freedom were being encroached upon. Passports, regulations, prohibitions, requirements pinched at the lives of us all, and now this. No cats stalking about in the garden; no cats lying on walls in the sun, watching us; no cats leading their parallel lives in the gardens of other cats, or other people; cat doors, the symbol of cats' liberty, a thing of the past, a reminder of what used to be. "That poem," he muttered. "What poem?" "That Christopher Smart poem. He wrote it when he was in the asylum. I learned chunks of it as a boy. There was a teacher who believed in poetry. We loved him. He was gentle; he didn't disapprove. And then he died." Domenica listened. Yes, she thought. Great teachers are like that: they believe in something--poetry, physics, it can be anything, really--and they are loved, but often do not know it. Then they die, and are loved all the more. "He--Christopher Smart, that is--listed all the merits of cats. He said:  For his motions on the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped. For he can swim for life. For he can creep ." "No longer," said Domenica. Below the table, Cyril cocked an ear. He was unaware of the subject of discussion, of course, but he hated cats. He resented their freedom and their arrogance. Their humiliation would be heaven for him--justly deserved, and none too soon in its coming. Excerpted from The Peppermint Tea Chronicles: 44 Scotland Street Series (13) by Alexander McCall Smith All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.