Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith
Audio by Recorded books with delightful narration by Robert Ian Mackenzie.
From the series: 44 Scotland Street
I am still puzzling over the title of this novel. Scones are mentioned only briefly, and then in terms of their heaviness!
This is not the first book in the series, but as with other McCall Smith novels, one can pick up the story here and later backtrack for more installments in the lives of his intelligent, likeable characters. The residents of 44 Scotland St. (apartment house in Edinburgh, Scotland) live somewhat mundane lives punctuated by exchanges of philosophy, kindnesses, misunderstandings and their embarrassing consequences.
An underlying theme of this book is about the sense of community and identity that is being swept away by inclusiveness and globalization. The author uses his characters to make a point that people need a sense of belonging and believing; rituals have their place in our lives. They are important because we all need to feel that we belong. When old identities are taken away, some may turn to gangs; some need to find their identity from sports teams, etc.
A major character of this story is Angus Lordie, a portrait painter. Angus is a loveable character and the mouthpiece for many of the philosophical ruminations of the author. Angus thinks that the things that really bind people to one another are a shared sense of who they are; shared identity as Scotsmen or as Presbyterians, or as Cub Scouts. Common practices and loyalties are being deliberately dismantled; pluralists and relationists are dismantling culture. In the name of preventing offense, they scorn those who have a sense of themselves with a particular cultural identity (Scotsman, in particular).
The resolution to this problem is love; we can put the world back in order with love. Angus’ poem at the end of the book made me weep with its beauty and truth.
I have truly loved every story I’ve read by Alexander McCall Smith. Try ‘em… you may love them too!

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