The Monday Book falls on a Wednesday this Week


We apologize for the irregular blogs of late and are trying to get back on track! Here’s Jack’s review of 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall-Smith


I’m a huge fan of McCall-Smith, ever since I began devouring his No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. But he has a number of others that deserve attention, including Corduroy Gardens and the Scotland Street one.


I should explain right away that I lived most of my life within 30 minutes’ drive of the center of Edinburgh, where this series is set, so I’m very familiar with Scotland Street and the surrounding Georgian part of the city. McCall-Smith captures not only the geography beautifully, but its character through the residents, from the rugby following upper middle class to the quirky academics, the hard working cafe owner and the inimitable and much put-upon child of a demanding liberal-minded mother.


This series started as a serial in one of Scotland’s national newspapers and quickly built a devoted following. So much so that McCall-Smith was persuaded (by them) to turn it into a real book and then to publish two more follow-ups.


The one I’ve just finished re-reading is the second book (although I have read them all), and I was once again captivated by his ability to get right inside the mind of his characters – not just their surface characteristics, what they say and do, but what lies behind them; the professional or cultural world they inhabit. This might seem like a recipe for boredom, but he is such a wonderful observer of human nature and has such a way with words that it never is. Of course he lives in the Edinburgh Georgian ‘new town’ of which he writes and in many ways is just setting down what he lives and experiences every day.


Finally – just like in the Corduroy Gardens series this one has a dog as one of its main characters and I absolutely love how (in both cases) McCall Smith relates to his readers the world from the dog’s point of view. Anyone who has ever been owned by a dog will get it!

A Message from Val-Kyttie, Bookshop CEO

Little did I think, while relaxing as a tiny kitten at the Leith home for orphan cats and dogs (that’s in Scotland) that one day I’d be in charge of the ‘Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap’.

It’s a heavy responsibility to be in charge of the bookstore and I don’t take it lightly. I mean, we have 38,000 books here and so many customers! So if it sometimes looks as if I’m dozing, or even sleeping soundly, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m continually reviewing our Mission Statement and our five year plan, not to mention marketing strategies and staff training.

Did I mention the staff? There’s the humans—Wendy my catering manager and Jack the general minion and Boy Friday—plus the others.

Ah, the others….

The others are utterly useless hangers-on, complete wastes of space! Zora the black Lab was already settling in when I arrived from Scotland. She thinks she is in charge of customer relations, but she’s not – I am! Bert the Terrier seems to think he’s the security manager, but he’s not – I am! Beulah, whom everyone delights in calling a “pretty kitty,” took over customer attraction duties by sunning herself on the porch – my porch!

Just recently there’s been a positive invasion of pesky little kittens mewling and carrying on. None of them stay long, thank goodness, but as soon as one lot get the message and sling their hook, another lot arrive. Apparently the human staff are “rescuing” them. Hmmph. There is one, by the name of Owen Meany, I believe, who seems to be hanging around a bit longer. Hhhmmm –

It’s enough to drive a cat to drink!

Talking of drink, have you seen that picture of one of the pesky little critters eying up the glass of red? The one the catering manager put on here as the latest caption contest? She should have known better! Everyone knows you have white with fish and I distinctly remember I had shrimp that day. (I hope it wasn’t marinated in red).

I can think of a few short and pithy captions, but they’d probably get the catering manager banned, and she works the can opener. So scroll back to August 14, view the photo, and do your worst.

Perhaps if I have time I’ll write again about the trials and tribulations I put up with here at the bookshop. If it weren’t for me, this place would have fallen into wrack and ruin ages go. The catering manager has no idea what she’s doing, and as for that Boy Friday…. If I didn’t watch him every minute, he’d leave book boxes lying everywhere. It’s only my constant moving in and out of them that reminds him to put them away. Sometimes I have to sleep in one to get him to notice how long it’s been there. Honestly…..