Bertie Plays the Blues by Alexander McCall Smith (Recorded Books, 2013).
It always makes me forget the stress of my long commute to listen to one of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels. This title in the “44 Scotland Street” series, published in 2011, took me away to Edinburgh with the voice of Scottish actor Robert Ian Mackenize. In this series Smith weaves together the day to day stories of some diverse residents of the city, several of whom live in flats at 44 Scotland Street. They have the normal problems of love, family, jobs and neighbors, but seem to live in an altogether more civilized world than we do in the United States. There are no shootings or accusations of police abuse. They walk or take buses or trains (rarely cars), work, go to school, have dinner parties, drink coffee or beer in coffee shops or pubs, and visit art galleries. They spend time with friends, walk dogs, read poetry, enjoy classical music. One of the signature phrases in Smith’s books is “(so-and-so) thought about it.” His characters spend an enormous amount of time reflecting on the moral and philosophical implications of their actions (and those of others). Sometimes this can go on too long, but in Bertie Plays the Blues at least, the balance of action and thought is just right.