Let me say the bad thing first, it is slow reading. All action fans and lovers of fast paced fiction drop it right now, it’s not for you. Alexander McCall Smith was never noted for his sharp twists and abrupt falls. It took me awhile to get used to its pace and lack of action, but it was worth it.
Slow and sweet, it is filled with insightful observations of human behavior. There are very few writers who can fill their characters with so many of an average person’s minutiae that they seem just like somebody you know. Every character is so well defined with the fears and dreams so realistically enunciated that it is difficult to stop reading till the end, and for me- that is the litmus test of any book. There are so many books that seemed great when I started, but soon merged with the rest of the half-read literature messing my table.
The story deals with Matthew who is getting married to Elspeth Harmony, his friend Angus and his dog Cecil, Cecil’s un-loving human friend Domenica, an intelligent and oppressed child Bertie who is totally bullied by his education obsessed mom, Bruce the narcissist and some more. With such a disparate cast it’s so easy to go wrong; your characters can get lost in the maze of words, they can flounder helplessly without saying anything that touches you and the book can become a mad tangle to decipher. The sheer art and skill of McCall Smith is evident in the way he handles this motley bunch and manages to make a meaningful statement about the virtues of kindness, love, and friendship. I have yet to come across a writer who can weave trivial everyday incidents into a charming readable book that expounds values while being totally droll.