Corduroy Mansions

by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardcover, 2009





Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited (2009)


In London's Pimlico neighborhood lies a tenement described in architectural guides as "a building of no interest whatsoever." But the residents of Corduroy Mansions--including a literary agent, a wine merchant, a thoroughly unpleasant member of Parliament, and a vegetarian dog--are a rather fascinating lot.

Media reviews

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.
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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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lismarrow
awesome read! if you like the 44 Scotland St series, this is the English version, written for the Daily Telegraph as a serialised novel in the tradition of Charles Dickens.
LibraryThing member bearette24
I liked this book a lot. I thought McCall Smith might be losing his touch, but the new setting (London) and characters seem to reinvigorate his writing. Although he borrows liberally from his 44 Scotland Series (a painting is used as a plot point, in addition to the conceit of neighbors in a building), the story seems new and fresh. I can't wait to read the next installment.… (more)
LibraryThing member ruthm2010
A thoroughly enjoyable read this story about the lives of the residents of a block of flats is gentle funny and very entertaining. Although there is not a fast-paced exciting plot I became so interested in the characters' antics that I found myself snatching whatever chance I could to see what they were up to.
LibraryThing member TigsW
Another charming novel from this author. His interesting and thoughtful insights into his human (and dog) characters always have some positive bent and some moral undertone. They're simply lovely. This characterizations, though, are becoming deeper and he publishes more books and slightly blacker edges are emerging.
LibraryThing member Clara53
A remarkably appealing start for a new series by one of my favorite authors. And what a prolific writer A.McCall Smith is: writing several series at the same time and not repeating himself in any way. The very name of the dog (Freddie de la Hay!) on the cover of the book will make you smile on and on. At the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic (and what if I am!) I must say that my heart soars and my brain rests reading McCall's books. Plus, no swear words - nothing like that - which unfortunately permeate some contemporary literature. Enjoyed it thoroughly.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheLostEntwife
There is just something special in the way that Alexander McCall Smith writes. I knew when I picked up Corduroy Mansions that I'd be in for a treat, and I wasn't let down.

Here's what I love most about Alexander McCall Smith's writing: his character development. There is not a single book of his that hasn't had me waxing on and on about at least one of his characters, and Corduroy Mansions is not exempt from this. I don't know who I loved more, William (and Freddie de la Hay - the vegetarian dog), Oedipus Snark (such a fun, bad character) or Barbara and her adorable, naive brother, Theodore.

This was the perfect airplane read. It had me giggling softly to myself, thoroughly engrossed in the unfolding drama all centered around a quiet, unassuming building. A fantastic read and one I highly recommend.
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LibraryThing member thorold
The mixture as usual from McCall Smith - great comfort reading, a few clever lines and some nice comic set-pieces, but nothing remotely unexpected. You'd have thought he could have tried a bit harder to conceal that this is 44 Scotland Street moved to London. The change of setting means that we miss out on the deep affection for Edinburgh and its residents that is such a large part of the charm of McCall Smith's other books, but we don't seem to get anything new to replace it. There's certainly no real flavour of "London-ness" about the book.
McCall Smith is evidently so used to writing serials that he doesn't even bother to tie up his plot lines any more, something that gives the structure of the book a rather unsatisfying feel. Worth reading if you happen to find a copy on a friend's shelves, but not worth spending money on, I would say.
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LibraryThing member dissed1
Corduroy Mansions is a droll British comedy of errors. The novel follows the lives of the Pimlico flat's inhabitants and the trials and disappointments of their ordinary lives. Willim needs to get his fully grown son to move out of his house, and keep his avid suitor from moving in, while downstairs four young women wrestle with romances of their own. Bertea's caught up in looking after her brother, whose daft lifestyle leaves her on edge. Everyone's got someone else occupying their mind and is rattling rather distractedly through their own lives.

Author Alexander McCall Smith writes with verve and wit, but something about this farce kept it from holding my attention. The characters and their predicaments are interesting, but the plot never seems to go anywhere--and wading through all the dithering over decision-making is monotonous and drags the story down. Several characters play a very small part in the tale, and don't seem to have enough to do. Either their roles should have been expanded or excluded all together.

While Corduroy Mansions is cleverly told, it lacks any nuance capable of hooking the reader and inciting him to care. I want to like this book and recommend it wholeheartedly . . . . I just can't.
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LibraryThing member phh333
Enjoyable read about a group of quirky characters that live in a group of flats - Corduroy Mansions. It started out very funny and ended up mildly humorous. Good audio version.
LibraryThing member hailelib
A fun and interesting book from McCall Smith with an ensemble of characters who either live in Corduroy Mansions or are connected to someone who does. It chronicles their everyday lives, especially that of William and his new dog, Freddie de la Hay. Set in contemporary London.

I may read more about these characters if Corduroy Mansions becomes a series but I still prefer the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels to his other books.… (more)
LibraryThing member delphimo
This is another series by Alexander McCall Smith and is set in London with the main character Freddie de la Hay, a vegetarian Pimlico terrier. The story resembles the 44 Scotland series with all the quirky characters living in a specific block and also draws on the philosophical quality of the Isabel Dalhousie series. I enjoy the common attitude and every day life of the characters, such as a father trying to get his adult son to move and live his own life and a mother hating her own son and reverting to writing his biography. As with Smith's writing he seems to poke fun at life's serious issues such as infidelity, and state that life is too short to worry needlessly.… (more)
LibraryThing member Marliesd
LOVE AMS! And this book is MUCH longer than the recent #1 Ladies books!
LibraryThing member wendyrey
Originally written as a daily novel and it shows. The lives of the inhabitants of a small block of london flats. Mildy amusing implausable events and a disjointed style with a hundred chapters published one a day . I got quite engaged in the middle but it fizzled out in the last few chapters where most ends are tied up but Smith runs out of steam.
Interesting but spoiled by the flat ending.
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LibraryThing member JulesJones
Gently funny episodic novel about the inhabitants of Cordury Mansions, a Pimlico apartment block built in the early twentieth century and currently providing a comfortable home to a variety of tenants. It's good-natured and enjoyable, but about two-thirds of the way through I found that it simply wasn't holding my interest any longer, in part because it didn't feel as if there would be any resolution to any of the storylines. I put it down for a while, and find myself disinclined to pick it up and finish it. At this point I'm declaring it a DNF. I think I would probably enjoy this as an audiobook better than I would as a print book.… (more)
LibraryThing member Neale
An enjoyable read. It promised more than it delivered. A few too many loose ends. Some of it reminded me of Ben Elton.
LibraryThing member CloggieDownunder
Corduroy Mansions is the first of the Corduroy Mansions series by Alexander McCall Smith. This novel is along the same style as the 44 Scotland Street series: it was originally published on the website in daily chapters. The setting here is a run-down block of flats in Pimlico. The residents are William, a wine merchant and his lazy son Eddie; the girls in the first floor flat, Caroline, Jenny, Dee and Jo; and Basil Wickramsinghe. Associated characters are William’s friend, caterer Marcia; Caroline’s friends, fellow student James and photographer Tim Something; Jenny’s boss, MP Oedipus Snark; Oedipus’ girlfriend, publisher Barbara Ragg; Oedipus’ mother, psychologist Berthea and her brother Terence, an enthusiast of Sacred Dance; Barbara Ragg’s partner, Rupert Porter; and, last, but certainly not least, Freddie de la Hay, a Pimlico terrier, retrenched airport sniffer dog and eventual companion to William. I have read criticism of this book that it is the same as 44 Scotland Street. I don’t agree and unless it was word for word and character for character the same, anything written by Alexander McCall Smith is worth reading. His books are about his characters, their foibles and virtues, and their interactions with each other and the world at large. Their comments about people and situations are what makes McCall Smith’s books such a joy to read. His sharp powers of observation of the human race translate to characters and dialogue that we can all identify with, having had those thoughts ourselves or heard those comments from others. I spend the whole of these novels chuckling or laughing out loud. Can’t wait for the second instalment, The Dog Who Came In From The Cold.… (more)
LibraryThing member kmaziarz
McCall Smith, well-known for his “Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency” series, brings his trademark warm humor and wise wit to the interlocking stories of a small group of Londoners. The stories here center around the inhabitants of an apartment building in the Pimlico neighborhood called Corduroy Mansions. William, a widowed wine merchant, schemes to oust his lazy freeloading twenty-something son from their shared apartment so William can get on with his life, and enlists Marcia, a single female friend with romantic ambitions toward William, to help him. Dee, a young woman who works in a vitamin shop, cannot understand why her young male coworker won’t let her give him the colonic irrigation she’s convinced he desperately requires. Art history student Caroline conceives a crush on a friend and fellow student who has recently decided he might not be gay after all. Poor Jenny works as a secretary for Oedipus Snark, an MP so odious that even his own mother can’t stand him and is working on his unauthorized biography in order to expose him to the world. These stories and others collide as McCall Smith’s characters each confront their quotidian, universal yet deeply personal, problems. (Dog lovers will particularly enjoy reading about the sprightly and intelligent pooch Freddie de la Hay!)… (more)
LibraryThing member phoenixcomet
Disappointing. Quick read, but the characters only marginally come to life. Story lines are left incomplete and perhaps that is because it is supposed to be a never-ending tale of what occurs in the housing complex in Great Britain, or perhaps it's because the author didn't think it was necessary to do so.
LibraryThing member gbelik
A light read without much plot but with some endearing characters.
LibraryThing member TLHelen
A lighthearted walk through the life of the residents of an old apartment in London. A chance to laugh at the foibles of others and ignore our own.
LibraryThing member heaward
AMS sets this story in London. In it, he uses the same frame for the story as 44 Scotland Street--a group of people living in flats in a charming building--but moves further afield in the lives of the characters. Some familiar themes pop up wine merchants, British Racing Green Jaguars, a dog, and some philosophical thinking. I like how the author writes his characters and I keep coming back for more. Just what I was looking for...… (more)
LibraryThing member sbsolter
Corduroy Mansions is what I would classify as super-light reading. So light, in fact, that I was somewhat bored. It jumps around between several different characters who all live in the same apartment building. The constant switching between storylines was annoying, and the storylines and characters themselves were only mildly interesting. I gradually got somewhat more drawn into it as the book progressed, and eventually actually wanted to know what would happen - and it turned out the ending was quite disappointing in that it did not satisfactorily resolve all of the plotlines. So overall, I really wouldn't consider it that great of a book, but I still kind of want to know what happens next to the characters, in the sequel.… (more)
LibraryThing member raizel
A charming story about the occupants of an apartment building and the people connected to them. The brother of the mother of the boss of one a group of young women sharing an apartment reminds me of P. G. Wodehouse's Lord Emsworth in his inability to do anything successfully. it is part of a series and although the book seems to end satisfyingly enough, there are some stories that we do seem to be in the middle of.

One particularly bit: "This technique of asking just the right question to inhibit further conversation was a useful one, and was used by William in other social circumstances when small talk needed to be avoided. At cocktail parties, where one might quite reasonably simply wish to stand, or sit, and not be pestered by other guests seeking to make small talk, the use of a discreet lapel badge was sometimes to be recommended. The badge might state one's religious position in unequivocal terms, and invite discussion on it. This a small badge saying 'Please talk to me about salvation' usually had the effect of ensuring a peaceful time at any party, leaving one untroubled by other guests coming up to engage one in unwanted conversation. Similarly a badge saying 'No longer infectious' could usually be calculated to ensure physical space, another commodity in short supply at the more popular cocktail parties.
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LibraryThing member arielfl
I am a huge fan of The Number One Ladies Detective Agency Series. I look forward to every April when a new one comes out just in time for my birthday. I have read all of the Isabel Dalhousie novels as well while biding time for Mma Ramotswe. While enjoyable they are are somewhat dull compared to my time spent in Botswana. I picked this series up because of that gosh darn cute dog on the cover. He was the best thing in the whole book. I even love his name Freddie de lay Hay. An intelligent name for an intelligent animal. The book needed more Freddie and less of the whiny, boring people living in the Pimlico flat Corduroy Mansions. This probably book would have been okay if I didn't have such high expectations. Apparently this series is very similar to McCall's series 44 Scotland Street. There is no mystery to anchor the lot so it is mainly a narrative of situations, some involving love and unpleasantness the characters find themselves confronted with. Although I love Alexander McCall Smith, and his creation Freddie de lay Hay I was not as enamored of the human residents of Corduroy Mansions.… (more)
LibraryThing member CliveDorset
Loved it, had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next! Liked the way he personalized the dog when telling story. Have read all three books in series now.


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