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Corduroy Mansions

by Alexander McCall Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Corduroy Mansions (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0745919,334 (3.54)77
Corduroy Mansions is the affectionate nickname given to a genteel, crumbling mansion block in London's vibrant Pimlico neighborhood and the home turf of a captivating collection of quirky and altogether McCall-Smithian characters. There's the middle-aged wine merchant William, who's trying to convince his reluctant twenty-four-year-old son, Eddie, to leave the nest; and Marcia, the boutique caterer who has her sights set on William. There's also the (justifiably) much-loathed Member of Parliament Oedipus Snark; his mother, Berthea, who's writing his biography and hating every minute of it; and his long-suffering girlfriend, Barbara, a literary agent who would like to be his wife (but, then, she'd like to be almost anyone's wife). There's the vitamin evangelist, the psychoanalyst, the art student with a puzzling boyfriend and Freddie de la Hay, the Pimlico terrier who insists on wearing a seat belt and is almost certainly the only avowed vegetarian canine in London.… (more)
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» See also 77 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
A few very funny moments but I didn't warm up to the characters too much. Willing to give the next book a chance, though. ( )
  Alishadt | Feb 25, 2023 |
No real plot but more a series of short stories of characters tenuously linked. Fizzled out with a weak ending with an ode to friendship, which came as rather out-of-place as the friendship theme didn't come across very strong. I thought that Oedipus Snark will get his comeuppance but he didn't, which is quite a pity. ( )
  siok | Jun 11, 2022 |
This is the first book I've read by McCall Smith. I get the feeling that I started with the wrong book.

I didn't realise when I started reading that this book started life as a newspaper column. I imagine that, as a newspaper column it could have worked, but it didn't work so well as a novel. It was choppy and disjointed and mostly uninteresting. There was no main storyline, just a mix of snippets from various peoples' lives, and I think that too much was going on for it to work as a cohesive story. None of the characters were believable. Not one of them had a personality, they were stuffy and wooden and stereotypical and I refuse to believe anyone is that clueless about life, let alone a whole bunch of people who happen to live in the same building. For me the only character that was mildly interesting was Eddie. Throwing someone out of their house because 'they should have moved out at their age' is despicable, but here it is portrayed as perfectly acceptable. There was much about this book I found a bit off, and in some places bordering on offensive.

As other people have mentioned there are a lot of loose ends at the end of this book. I don't care enough about any of the characters though to read on to see how they are resolved. ( )
  Triduana | Jan 25, 2022 |
Really sweet and humorous story with a likeable cast of characters. Kind of reminded me of PG Wodehouse. Great book with a cup of tea on a rainy Sunday afternoon. ( )
  porte01 | Jan 25, 2021 |
I really enjoyed McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. I loved learning about Botswana and getting to know Precious Ramotswe and her friends. Nothing devastating ever happens - there are bad things but there is good at the end. Precious is a sensible person who knows her worth and cares about others.

I moved into all the other series he wrote and I believe I read them all or nearly all. I enjoyed getting to know Edinburgh, particularly from the 44 Scotland St series, and when i visited that great city in 2008 I found the pub that is frequented by many of the characters. There is no plaque on the outside - perhaps there should be?

A few things have bothered me about these books, however. As gentle as he tends to be, McCall Smith also favors generalizations that go unchallenged. As: "Nobody touches anyone any more because they are afraid of being misunderstood." And "people are too busy to have dinner parties very often any more". More than once this reference to touching comes up and it is representative of what bothers me about these books: it is an exaggeration of the truth: some people are indeed sensitive to touch or to some kinds of touch, but most of us are not. Most of us welcome it. And even those who are sensitive are usually understanding when somebody makes a mistake.

McCall Smith makes fun of some types of persons by, again, exaggerating certain qualities that might be found in some but not all. For example, the head of a health food store pushes colonics to the point of offering to give one to an employee herself. And does not see the awkwardness of the offer. Persons who are vegetarians are invariably represented as either hippie-dippy or extreme and inconsistent earth-savers. One who insists on feeding his dog a vegetarian diet yet likely does not eat that way himself.

And dogs. Clearly McCall Smith likes dogs. His representations of them are always sympathetic. Yet there is so much he does not know about them while imparting traits they simply do not have. For example, he believes they feel guilt. Dogs do not. They live in the present and whatever is in the past stays there. Yet he does not recognize that dogs do have an inherent sense of fairness. If one is given a bone but its friend is not, the bone-less dog feels slighted. I learned these things by reading about studies on dogs. There have been many studies because of the way they were bred for human use. There is no other animal who needs humans as well as other dogs in its life.

I am bothered that somebody whose work is in bioethics has no sense of the ethical use of animals for human use. Is his Scottish upbringing so strong that it overcomes such considerations?

I bring up this issue because the dog in this book was raised vegetarian by its main owner. Yet when the co-owner takes on the dog he cares not a whit about the original owner's beliefs and practices. It seems like he should have at least let the man know that he might not follow all of the same practices. It seems rude to ignore them and laugh behind his back as he feeds the dog meat.

I admit I am taking this opportunity to air a few grievances I have nursed while reading all of these books. In general I enjoy them but I am beginning to enjoy them less, particularly because of the exaggerated generalizations and the stereotyped characters of those who hold certain views. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Like all McCall Smith’s books, their stories are told with warmth, wit and intelligence and his cast of characters are beautifully observed. It’s a page-turner with many happy endings. Perfect.
added by Shortride | editDaily Express, Angela McGee (Aug 18, 2009)
 
We may laugh, but our sympathies are engaged at the same time: a deeper and more complex emotion than one normally finds in comedy.

It is this fundamental decency that is perhaps the key to McCall Smith's comedies of manners. Corduroy Mansions may lack the local specificity that makes 44 Scotland Street such an enjoyable read, but it's still a great place to visit if you need cheering up.
 
Occasionally, McCall Smith’s duty to weigh each question seriously causes a character to sound unconvincing... the seriousness is always sugar dusted with McCall Smith’s delight in the ridiculous and his perfectly paced humour. While he’s an author who clearly believes most people are decent at heart, he’s not above creating a character so loathsome that we cheer on as the villain’s mother plans an unauthorised biography of him and later, tipsily, fantasises about electrocuting him.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Alexander McCallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McIntosh, IainIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sachs, AndrewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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This book is for Andrew Sachs
First words
Passing off, thought William. Spanish sparkling wine - filthy stuff he thought, filthy - passed itself off as champagne.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
There are multiple audiobook editions of this title. Abridged edition, read by Andrew Sachs, was released by Little, Brown Book Group in the UK (ISBN 10: 1405505737 ISBN 13: 9781405505734, 2009). This reading was also released in the US by Hachette Audio (ISBN 10: 1405509376 ISBN 13: 9781405509374, 2010), and by Hachette Australia (ISBN 10: 0349122393 ISBN 13: 9780349122397, 2010). Unabridged edition was released by Recorded Books, and is read by Simon Prebble. (ISBN 10: 1449839398 ISBN 13: 9781449839390, published 2010). amazon.com unfortunately has missing and/or incorrect information on the three editions they list. Two of the listings have incorrect publication dates (1740 and 1900), but both appear to be the Hachette/Sachs edition. The director Chris Thiese is listed in error as the narrator for the Recorded Books edition.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Corduroy Mansions is the affectionate nickname given to a genteel, crumbling mansion block in London's vibrant Pimlico neighborhood and the home turf of a captivating collection of quirky and altogether McCall-Smithian characters. There's the middle-aged wine merchant William, who's trying to convince his reluctant twenty-four-year-old son, Eddie, to leave the nest; and Marcia, the boutique caterer who has her sights set on William. There's also the (justifiably) much-loathed Member of Parliament Oedipus Snark; his mother, Berthea, who's writing his biography and hating every minute of it; and his long-suffering girlfriend, Barbara, a literary agent who would like to be his wife (but, then, she'd like to be almost anyone's wife). There's the vitamin evangelist, the psychoanalyst, the art student with a puzzling boyfriend and Freddie de la Hay, the Pimlico terrier who insists on wearing a seat belt and is almost certainly the only avowed vegetarian canine in London.

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Book description
Serialised e-book on The Telegraph website. Due for book and audio publication in July 2009. Audio version also available online.
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