Many people admire Downton Abbey for its great cast of characters. To these people, who enjoy the continuing shifting of focus from one compelling character to another, who like a cast whose relationships are evolving with the changing times, I recommend the 44 Scotland Street novels by Alexander McCall Smith. They may lack the grand house and estate of the hit BBC television series, but they have the high and low streets of Edinburgh and all of Scotland. There is also a good dose of humor.
Foremost in the cast is Bertie. In The Importance of Being Seven, he is six years old, as he has being since the stories began. McCall Smith admits in his introduction to the book that this is not chronologically possible, but he says that at six Bertie is a perfect character bound to win the sympathy of readers. He just wants to be a boy, but his mother Irene wants him to be a genius. While his struggle to be free of his mother's demands is humorous, he speaks for all of us who are still children well into middle age.
Like Downton Abbey, The Importance of Being Seven has its young married couple concerned about whether they can take over and maintain an old house. The series cast also includes an older woman ready to express her strong opinions. Then there is Bruce, a vain young man who just when you think he is reforming cruelly deceives others as a means of his own advancement. Sound familiar?
No one dies in this novel but continuing readers won't mind. They hope everyone will return in the next 44 Scotland Street novel.
McCall Smith, Alexander. The Importance of Being Seven. Anchor Books, 2012. 311p. ISBN 9780307739360