EXCERPT: This is an extract from the title story, Pianos and Flowers.
She read constantly, almost a novel a day. She devoured Maugham’s ‘The Casuarina Tree’, saying to herself, ‘Yes, yes, that’s exactly right,’ although her friend wrote to her from Penang to say how angry they were that he had abused their hospitality by writing about them. ‘That man,’ she steamed, ‘accepted the hospitality of a whole lot of people – some of whom you and I actually know, Francie – and then writes about them like that! As if adultery and back-biting were the only things we thought about from the moment we get out of bed – rarely our own bed, in Mr Maugham’s view – until the time we turn the lights out. If you could hear some of the things they are saying about that man here, and his so-called secretary…’
ABOUT ‘PIANOS AND FLOWERS’: A delightful compendium of short stories inspired by images in the renowned photographic archive of The Sunday Times.
A picture can paint a thousand words, but what about a vintage photograph?
In 2015 Alexander McCall Smith wrote a book entitled Chance Developments: Unexpected Love Stories, in which he imagined the stories behind five chanced-upon black and white photographs. Who were those people, why were they smiling, what made them sad? He so enjoyed the experience that when The Sunday Times generously offered him access to their early 20th century photograph archive he jumped at the opportunity.
MY THOUGHTS: 14 short stories accompanied by the photos which inspired them. Some are clever, some are witty, some sad, some touching, and I found only one to be mundane.
There’s one photo that particularly touched my heart, that of a group of boys, many in sixth or seventh hand shoes.
The stories themselves are varied in subject matter: there are stories of families, friendship, romance, obligation, business and travel. They are stories of every day people going about their lives in the 1800s, their trials and tribulations, the things that make them happy and sad.
A lovely book designed, I think, to be dipped into from time to time rather than be read in one sitting. There is certainly food for thought in more than one of these stories, and I am sure that I will be picking this book up again.
THE AUTHOR: Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall Smith for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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