Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review - Espresso Tales

One of the weirdest of my pregnancy experiences thus far has been a phase in the first trimester where I couldn't read. Books held no attraction for me for about three or four weeks. This is highly unusual for me. I had no attention span, and this combined with overwhelming fatigue left me crashing in front of the television every night after work. I didn't even care what I was watching, truthfully. If I did deign to read something, it was a pregnancy book. Blessedly, somewhere along week 9 or 10 I was able to enjoy my usual steady diet of fiction and I felt like myself again.

I am trying to make the most of my pre-baby time in many ways: spending time with friends, going out to eat, reading voraciously. My life is about to change in ways I can't even imagine, and I am sure that reading will be challenging if not impossible once Peanut arrives.

I just finished a positively delightful novel, Espresso Tales, the second of the Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. He's a Scottish author best known for his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency mysteries, which I have not read. This is not a mystery, but a story about people and families living on and around Scotland Street in Edinburgh. You have Bruce, the ridiculous narcissist, trying to open a wine shop knowing next to nothing about business or wine, and there's Pat, his roommate, who works in an art gallery and gets an invitation to attend a nudist picnic with a young man she's interested in. There's poor Bertie, a 6-year old genius pushed by his overbearing mother to play saxophone, learn Italian, and take yoga, when really all he wants to do is watch trains and go fishing. There's Cyril, the dog who longs to bite ankles but doesn't want his master to yell at him, and Domenica, the wise older anthropologist in a bit of a rut. These characters yearn, make mistakes, overthink, pontificate, blunder through life, like the rest of us; they feel real and the reader roots for them - even the unsympathetic ones have their charms.

Why do I love reading these novels? They're light without being vapid, funny without trying too hard, subtly moving without manipulating emotions. Entertaining and intelligent, wise and witty. I am excited that there are three more novels in the series.

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