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Espresso Tales is the second instalment of Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street Series, which follows the residents of an address in Edinburgh. Although I suppose it would be advisable to read the series in order, I don't think it would be overly confusing if you read them out of sequence. What I will say is that this review may contain spoilers from the first book, so if you do want to read them in order, look away now!
On the top floor of number 44, is the egotistical Bruce, who having been sacked from his job as a surveyor is now hoping to become a wine merchant, despite having little to no experience or knowledge of wine.
His flatmate Pat is still working for Matthew in the art gallery, and her love life seems to have stalled. You would think then, that she would be pleased, when neighbour, and fellow resident of the top floor of 44 Scotland Street, Domenica, begins matchmaking...
Pat's boss Matthew is finally getting to grips with running the art gallery, but he is shocked when his father announces that he has a new girlfriend, and immediately decides that she must be after his fathers millions.
Resident of the downstairs flat, Irene, is still the pushy mother from hell. Five year old son Bertie is about to start school, but not only is he not going to the school of his choice, Irene insists on forcing him to attend school wearing pink dungarees when all he wants is a pair of jeans like the other little boys. After Bertie's rebellion in the last book, Irene continues to take him to psychotherapist Dr Fairbairn, but is it really Bertie's mental state she is concerned with, or is there another reason that she insists on taking him there?
I enjoyed the first 44 Scotland Street book, but I have to say I absolutely loved this instalment. Whereas the first book was quite slow paced, and there was not actually much of a story, in this one there is always something happening, and the story takes lots of twists and turns.
The book was actually first serialised in The Scotsman newspaper, so each 'chapter' is very short - usually 2-3 pages. This actually makes it very easy to read and a good book to dip in and out of.
The first book seemed to concentrate mostly on Bruce and Pat, but in this volume, we see more of Irene, and son Bertie, something I was really pleased about as they are by far my favourite characters. Irene is fantastically written as the pushy and overbearing mother, forcing her poor son to go to yoga lessons and insisting his clothes and bedroom are pink so he wont feel he has to conform to gender stereotypes. The irony is that all Bertie wants is to be like the other little boys, wear blue jeans, and play with trains.
I love the sections where we see things from Bertie's point of view, because despite him being a child he is also very intelligent, so you get a mixture of child-like innocence, with a very grown up take on things which combine to be very funny. I was also glad we saw a bit more of Stuart, Irene's husband and Bertie's father in this book, as he didn't feature much in the first book, and it was nice to find out a bit more about him.
I also liked that we finally got to learn a little more about Domenica in this instalment as she didn't feature much in the first book. I also started to warm to Pat, who I was previously a little bit unsure of, Without giving too much away, it was also nice to see arrogant Bruce get brought down a peg or two.
I suspect Alexander McCall Smith's style of writing may not be to everyone's taste, and some might not 'get' it, but I'm really enjoying these books and can't wait for the next instalment!
In Espresso Tales, Alexander McCall Smith returns home to Edinburgh and the glorious cast of his own tales of the city, the residents of 44 Scotland Street, with a new set of challenges for each one of them. Bruce, the intolerably vain and perpetually deluded ex-surveyor, is about to embark on a new career as a wine merchant, while his long- suffering flatmate Pat MacGregor, set up by matchmaking Domenica Macdonald, finds herself invited to a nudist picnic in Moray Place in the pursuit of true love. Prodigious six-year-old Bertie Pollock wants a boy's life of fishing and rugby, not yoga and pink dungarees, and he plots rebellion against his bossy, crusading mother Irene and his psychotherapist Dr Fairbairn. But when Bertie's longed-for trip to Glasgow with his ineffectual father Stuart ends with Bertie taking money off legendary Glasgow hard man Lard O'Connor at cards, it looks as though Bertie should have been more careful what he wished for. And all the time it appears that both Irene Pollock and Dr Fairbairn are engaged in a struggle with dark secrets and unconscious urges of their own.