This book was just a lot of fun. 44 Scotland Street is a serial novel that was originally published in an Edinburgh newspaper. It takes place in Edinburgh, focusing mainly on the inhabitants of the titular apartment building. Among other characters, there’s Pat, a college-aged woman taking her “second gap year,” Bertie, a high-achieving 6-year-old with a helicopter mother, Domenica, the resident wise Mrs. Madrigal-type, and Bruce, who is honestly a completely fascinating character. In fact, while Pat is nominally the main character, and Bertie perhaps the most entertaining, I feel the need to dedicate this entire review to Bruce, who is one of the strangest people I’ve ever read about.
Bruce is a twenty-something building inspector who is extremely good-looking and knows it. Women (including Pat) tend to fall at his feet. He has a lot in common with Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. While there are plenty of Bruce types in literature and pop culture, this is the first time I’ve ever read anything that was from that type of character’s point of view. You never really think about those guys having an inner life, but let me tell you it was absolutely bizarre to read about. Bruce is not a good person–he cuts corners at work, he’s rude and condescending to women unless they’re attractive, and he’s obsessed with his physical appearance. He is not typically a character that an author would spend a lot of time developing, and I appreciate that Alexander McCall Smith did so. I do not understand Bruce and I do not understand why he does the things he does, but he is so entertaining. Even if the rest of the book wasn’t good (it is), the chapter where he goes to the Edinburgh Conservatives Ball with his boss would make reading the entire book worth it.
Not a lot happens in this book; it’s just the sort of book where people live their everyday lives and the reader just follows along. But 44 Scotland Street is a fun read, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series, especially if Bruce is in the other books.