Corduroy Mansions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 June, 2010, 12:00am

Corduroy Mansions
by Alexander McCall Smith
Abacus, HK$104

If ever a novelist was born to write a book with the word 'corduroy' in the title, that author is Alexander McCall Smith. The creator of Mme Ramotswe, he writes stories that skim genially across pain and death, but somehow always make you feel better for taking the ride. After his series set in a Scottish house, 44 Scotland Street, McCall Smith has re-invented his formula and begun a series set in a London house. It's Sgt Pepper all over again. First published in the Daily Telegraph in 100 instalments, the novel is more a collection of sketches than a rounded portrait. Set in affluent Pimlico, the accent is on gentle eccentricity and an absence of real, searing pain: McCall Smith famously reprimanded Irvine Welsh over Trainspotting. So, there's an odd couple, middle-aged William French and his son, Eddie, who is clinging to his family's apron strings for dear life; a quartet of four posh young women from across the globe; the community-minded accountant, Basil Wickramsinghe; and some strange goings on in the realm of Bulgarian dance. Funny, gentle and wise, McCall Smith is on top form throughout. Charmed, positively charmed.