A serial, a bad Harlequin and University Challenge

>> Monday, June 07, 2010

TITLE: 44 Scotland Street
AUTHOR: Alexander McCall Smith

44 Scotland Street was originally published as a serial in The Scotsman, so I tried to read it as it was intented to be read. I couldn't quite keep myself to a chapter (episode?) a day, but I was able to keep myself from gulping down too many in a sitting. It covers a period in the life of the residents at the eponymous Edinburgh address. There's Pat, now in her second gap year, who moves in to share a flat with the annoyingly self-involved Bruce. There's Bertie, a child prodigy starting to rebel against his mother's pressure to be ever more prodigious. There's Domenica Macdonald, with her fascinating history, and many more.

It's a fun read, more a sketch than an in-depth study, but still succeeding in creating characters who feel real. The only thing that wasn't so satisfying was that the book just stopped, with only one subplot resolved. Not much more closure at the end of the book than in any one of the chapters, really. I understand the story continues, though, and I'm planning to keep reading, if only to find out what happened in Pat's disastrous first gap year!


TITLE: Just Deserts
AUTHOR: Brenda Jackson

Wendy the Superlibrarian posted about this book a little while ago (go there and read the comments to find out why there's no misspelling in the title!). I thought the plot sounded interesting (I love friends-to-lovers stories), so I picked it up from the library. Unfortunately, it wasn't good. Two reasons:

1) the clunky plot. Looks like this is part of a continuity series, and there was a lot of exposition about just what had happened in previous books. Basically, the gimmick here is that the heroines of all 3 books married the same cheating bastard (or thought they did). Each book tells the story of one of them, as they deal with the betrayal and find love. I didn't mind the set-up itself, but I minded that none of the characters' actions felt real. When Danielle goes off desperate to find this woman whom they've just found out was being groomed to be wife # 4, I really, really didn't what she was on about.

2) The clunky writing. Awkward, simplistic, all telling and no showing. Drove me batty.

After about 30 pages, I knew there was no point in continuing.


TITLE: Starter For Ten
AUTHOR: David Nicholls

I picked this up because the title immediately said "University Challenge", and took it home with me because the blurb confirmed it. It's not really about University Challenge, but The Challenge, as our protagonist calls it, does feature quite prominently in his life. It's 1985 and Brian Jackson is off to university. The book covers his first year there, including his crush on beautiful Alice, his relationship with his friends left at home, and many other painfully funny things.

I really enjoyed it, especially the way Nicholls was able to, at the same time, write a book that felt very much of its time and yet also paint a portrait of university students that still feels true (things like the way Brian was so proud he knew the meaning of the word eponymous that he used it as much as possible - and he inspired me, see the first review above!).



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