Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Importance of Reading Rightly

Well I finished yet another Alexander McCall Smith book last night... what can I say, he writes a lot of books.  And this one has as of yet only been published in England and was on loan to me for this Shabbos only and so naturally moved to the top of my to do list... and even with that I only managed to finish it 4 in the morning last night so it could head home to Queens early this morning - but I did it, of course - there is little I would not do for a book, especially an only-published-in-England book :)

So I was debating whether I should even review it, given that I've already said so much about AMS on here (see here and here) but since it's the only book I finished this Shabbos, and I can't go so long without posting (couldn't do that to my loyal fans :)) I decided to indulge you and myself in a light review - so here goes :)

The first thing to say about The Dog Who Came In From the Cold is that it's the second in the series of the Corduroy Mansions books, and I do not remember the first very well.  I remembered all the characters, just not where exactly they were in lives.  So it definitely took some getting into before I could fully engage - but that didn't actually take long, it's pretty easy to pick up the thread.  But the truth is, I don't really root for any of the characters in this book, the way I root for Bertie and Matthew (a little Matthew... maybe not so much) in the 44 Scotland Street series) so I found myself getting annoyed with their pretensions - it seemed like AMS just putting his thoughts in every character's mouth, without each really having much of an individual voice.  And when it came to MI6 recruiting Freddie de La Hay, William French's dog (Pimlico Terrier actually - definitely a point in favor of this book that it takes place in Pimlico :)) I just got annoyed - I was like, I'm sorry but spying agencies just do NOT recruit like that.  So then I started complaining as I was reading and it was pointed out to me by several helpful people who were in the room at the time (thank you p,p,y,y, and h - don't recall which of you did the actual pointing out :)) that it was a JOKE - and I thought about it and I was like - you're right, it *is* just a joke.  And once I realized that, my whole perspective on the book just changed.

You're not supposed to take it seriously - it's published in a serial form first and the chapters are each meant to be interesting and somewhat humorous in an anecdotal way - when you read it in book form, you need to remember that, and kind of just let the story carry you along without getting too invested in the plot, or even in the characters.  It's kind of just a "what life would be like if life were just a little bit more improbable" and also "if people were slightly more like caricatures of themselves than they are".  Anyway, when you read it in the right spirit, it's really quite enjoyable.  It's kind of absurd but light and moves along very quickly.  I did find that I disagreed more than agreed with the aside observations, which is unlike in No. 1 Ladies, but I just kind of ignored any philosophical bent and reveled the slight absurdity of the story instead.  And it was fun :)

Verdict 4/5 - good job again, AMS :)

Oh and side note - if you want to read this book, I think it's still available in serial form online (and I'm sorry about the website, this does not imply ANY patronization of the newspaper in question) - but here it is

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