70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
Corduroy Mansions is in the same vein as 44 Scotland Street, but set in London. The inhabitants of a block of flats are the core characters who interact with the outside world. McCall Smith creates a range of believable people and weaves stories around them that illustrate human feelings and behaviour. When reading his books, I feel that the author is a kind and humane man who tries to see the best in people. His books do not depict the underbelly of society not are they full of violence, but they are not overly sentimental and do deal with philosophical and moral issues. I know Edinburgh well and the Scotland Street books are full of familiar Streets and venues which add to the pleasure. I don't feel that Corduroy Mansions has so many allusions to place, which is not surprising as McCall Smith has lived and worked in Edinburgh for a long time. The format of the book (like the Scottish series) is a series of short chapters, previously published in a daily newspaper, giving the book a pacy immediacy that carries the reader along. It's a bit like a superior soap opera where one follows the lives of the largely middle-class characters from day to day. Very enjoyable.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2009
Corduroy Mansions is the tale of the inhabitants of...well Corduroy Mansions, and those they interact with outside of the building they reside. William lives at the top of the building with his son Eddie, though he wants Eddie out going as far as getting a vegetarian cat loving dog (the wonderful Freddie de la Hay) and then moving in the besotted Marcia as a flatmate, perfect situation for some wonderful comedy. One the floor below lives a group of flat sharing girls. Jo an Aussie fresh to the UK but loving it and possibly one of her housemates, Dee who works in vitamins and pharmaceuticals and wants to give her assistant a colonic, Caroline an Art Student who once featured in Rural Life Magazine and is now sort of infatuated with James who is worried he might be straight and the bookish Jenny who works for the odious Oedipus Snark (brilliant name) the nastiest Liberal Democrat MP you could ever wish to meet.
Not only do we get to follow these colourful characters lives we also get to meet and in some cases follow the people that they have in their lives such as Oedipus through whom we also get to follow his mother Berthea, who is writing her sons biography, and her wonderful `spiritual' brother Terence Moongrove. There is also Oedipus's long suffering girlfriend Barbara Ragg who runs a publishing company and is about to have quite a change in life. These characters are also wonderful and make you want to read more; it's almost like wonderful character overload.
Now if you are wondering why I haven't mentioned plot... well there isn't a huge plot to it. It's much more subtle than that. There are small storylines for all the characters as McCall Smith himself puts it "these stories are character-based: what interests me is what makes the characters tick rather than intricate and potentially confusing plots" and with this many characters it could get confusing but it never does. I really, really enjoyed this book and would recommend it for anyone who loved Armistead Maupin's `Tales of the City' series though it's somewhat gentler, though there is more adult humour in this one than in 44 Scotland Street as I recall it. I would also recommend it for anyone who likes a good old nosey peep into normal characters lives, their little quirks and how they all interact. Delightful reading!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"If you are wise, you are wise for yourself," -- Proverbs 9:12 (NKJV)
Don't miss this book!
Corduroy Mansions displays all of the best traits of Alexander McCall Smith's writing about UK characters: Introspection, musings about the human condition, gentle seeking for love, outrageous satire, canine perspectives on humans, and one of the most obnoxious politicians you can imagine.
I was very impressed by the story. Only the absurd M.P. Oedipus Snark seems seriously unlikely to be a real person. He provides a perfect foil for introducing the other characters and making them sympathetically interesting. The other characters resonated with me in their discomfort, inertia, and willingness to step into the world of possibilities when the door to the future opens. The plot itself has many delightful twists that make for both gentle humor and belly laughs. Through it all, Alexander McCall Smith provides the kind of wisdom about knowing oneself and living authentically that makes his books so life affirming and enjoyable to read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2009
I always enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's writing, and the pace with which he is able to carry a reader, but his characters did not grab me in this book. It's partly because it's set in London and he does not lovingly and in detail describe the areas of the city in which the characters live, work and move ( and I can't empathise with an unknown part of London as much as I can with that wonderful city of Edinburgh), but also because some of the characters are rather shallow. I also find it very difficult to visualise them (always absolutely necessary) as I can in other series
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2009
I really enjoyed this book. I found it disarmingly sweet and honest, true to McCall Smith's unique style. It is more sophisticated than the First Lady's Detective Agency series - We are invited into the internal dialogue of a collection of very intelligent and academic Londoners, witnessing their confused thoughts and feelings as they try to untangle everyday problems. I think everyone will find issues in this book they can relate to, like job security, family, flatmates and unrequited love.
It follows the same unwavering moral compass found in all McCall Smith's books, interspersed with bright sparks of humour and charm, as well as refreshing originality - Take for example the vegetarian dog Freddie de la Hay.
It is no fast-paced book with cliff hangers and page-turning suspense, nor does it contain huge emotional turmoil or passionate romances. It is very much a middle-of-the-way story of average people living average lives, and the effect of the narration is more that of a comfortable ramble than a breathless charge. I was not as hooked as I might have been, but I never failed to be charmed and impressed by McCall Smith's sometimes profound take on everyday life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is my first acquaintance with McCall Smith and I find he is not to my taste: it will be my last. I know that my comic palette is different from most, who will love precisely what I hated about this book. I found its tales of ordinary middle class folk twee, its small adventures, of quiet bewilderment at the modern world; of pets and problems in London (not Edinburgh, same world though). This is the world of the genteel, of the comfortable, the lovers of the mild smile. For Botswana then read Edinburgh now London, it makes scant difference really. It will doubtless please those who delight in saying they are 'gruntled', who like to speak of 'chaps and chapesses' and who like puns. This is the sort of thing that inspired the Comedy Store in stand-up, a bit like Punk Rock i.e. there's a bit of 'Terry and June' about it. "Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" is, I think, not in the gentle Scot's lexicon. This is escapism of quite a low order: not funny, it's laboured, too predictable, too 'nice'. But I like Chris Morris and Python; if you hate them you are likely to love the gentle kindness in evidence throughout this book and '44 Scotland Square', from which this is cloned. It just didn't work for me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2010
McCall Smith's character shows up in all his books. He really is a terrible snob but quite amusing. Unfortunately his lack of fondness for London and England show up in all his books and in this one in particular. As a Londoner who loves his city, I find this a great pity. I do enjoy reading novels based in my home city but would prefer the writer to be a little kinder. I shall of course continue with the series but then I think perhaps McCall Smith should go back to Scotland.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2011
If you loved the `Scotland Street' series, then this is more of the same warm, witty drama from Alexander McCall Smith.
Short, easy episodes involve open, unmalicious characters. William is gentle, slightly ineffectual, but with a firm core. James discovers to his alarm that he may be heterosexual. The hopelessly romantic Terence Moongrove escapes serious harm only by strokes of fortune. Even the rather cold, dry Oedipus Snark is sympathetically portrayed.
Some of the characters are similar to the `Edinburgh' crowd. William reminded me of Matthew's dad (struggling somewhat with his composure, unsettled variously by his girlfriend or by his son). Freddie de la hay the dog echoed the part of Angus' dog Cyril (sensible, reassuring, though at times unreliable).
Therein I felt lay a slight weakness: a feeling of `sequel' - a similar format to the Scotland Street books, without quite the rich commitment they seemed to possess. Also, one or two of the `Corduroy' plot lines are a bit less convincing than those of its predecessor. Overall though, still good fun.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2011
There are many excellent ratings for this book so I will not analyse it further, but I am surprised to see some very poor ratings. I love McCall Smith's books, funny, warm hearted at the same time as reflecting on real live situations and the human condition. This book is every inch what I would expect from this author, although I rated with 4 stars simply because there other titles by him rate slightly higher in my opinion - nevertheless it is a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read. Maybe the poor ratings are from people who are looking for something other than what Alexander McCall Smith has to offer, but I feel certain that any real fans will enjoy this latest novel and do advise it as a most enjoyable read.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2009
If you've read the Scotland Street series, don't waste your money. An old house converted into flats, an eligible middle aged man and a woman with her eyes on him, a painting, a dog, an assortment of dithering, uncertain people, a dinner party ending with a poem. Haven't I read this before somewhere......? All that's missing is a Bertie, the best of the Scotland St characters.
This is shameless recycling of an idea. The same flour in a new bag. Some say that Mozart didn't compose 400 pieces - he composed the same piece 400 times. But Mozart had genius on his side.