One hundred more slices of life from 44 Scotland Street and environs (Love Over Scotland, 2007, etc.).
The return of art student Pat’s narcissistic former flatmate Bruce from London to Edinburgh tempts Pat to fall for him once more—a situation, as she sagely realizes, that’s “precisely the sort of thing that novelists liked to write about.” Not this novelist, however: Bruce insinuates himself into vapid, good-humored Julia’s flat, and Pat gets on with her life, which is mainly devoted to discouraging the sincere, diffident advances of Matthew, her fabulously wealthy but hopelessly unglamorous boss at the Something Special Gallery. Back at 44 Scotland Street, anthropologist Domenica, returned from the Malacca Straits, is certain that her friend Antonia, who has taken the flat across the landing, nicked one of Domenica’s Spode cups while she was minding her flat. Domenica’s friend Angus hasn’t been able to paint ever since his dog Cyril was accused of biting three neighbors and incarcerated, presumably to await a lethal injection. Downstairs from Domenica and Antonia, statistician Stuart and his overbearing wife Irene continue as the very model of dysfunctional parents, their family now expanded by the arrival of baby Ulysses, who’s about to have quite an adventure for a four-month-old. But the heart of Smith’s episodic tale, which combines selfishness and tenderness, blather and unexpected insight, is Ulysses’ older brother Bertie, a six-year-old savant. Even though Irene has laid the groundwork for some serious sibling rivalry by demanding that he change his brother’s nappies and help her express breast milk for him, Bertie’s fondest wish is that Ulysses be spared the round of Mozart, saxophone lessons and psychotherapy with which his mother afflicts him.
The best parts go to horrible Bruce, treasurable Bertie and Bertie’s monstrous little schoolmate Olive. To be continued.