Corduroy Mansions – Alexander McCall Smith

Earlier in the week I was invited to join the ‘Online Blogger Book Club’ for the sequel to Alexander McCall Smith’s novel Corduroy Mansion’s, The Dog Who Came In From The Cold. I love the opportunity to read along with other people, so I decided to go for it! I hadn’t read the first in the series, so had to find a copy and read it as quickly as possible!

I have to admit that I have only read one Alexander McCall Smith novel and I wasn’t very impressed. I found The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to be too light and fluffy for my taste. I am always willing to give authors a second chance though, and was interested to find out what his new series would be like.

Corduroy Mansions is set in London and describes the lives of the people who live in the run-down block of flats that gives the series it’s name. The central characters are father and son, William and Eddie. William is desperate for his adult son to move out, so he can finally have some independence and find some romance. The interactions of the residents of the building with the outside world are observed, but although I enjoyed reading small snippets of their lives, I felt that the book didn’t work well when read quickly over the course of just a few days. Corduroy Mansions was originally published online by the Telegraph, one chapter a day, over several months. I can see that by reading this book slowly, allowing the characters to gradually filter into your life, they would have had much more appeal.

I loved the detailed character observations, but found the plot to be almost non-existent. The large number of characters meant that I didn’t really connect with any of them, but I did enjoy the numerous witty anecdotes.

“You may conclude only one thing from my shelves,” he said, noticing the direction of his guest’s gaze, “and that is that I have not bothered to organise the books according to any accepted patterns.” William accepted the mug of tea offered him. “It’s difficult. I find that – ”  Manfred, lowering himself into a chair opposite the sofa, cut him short. “Alphabetical arrangement is not the only option,” he said. “And I’m always slightly suspicious of people whose books are arranged alphabetically. OCD issues. One isn’t a bookshop, you know. Nor a library.” 

This book reminded me of The Room of Lost Things by Stella Duffy, and I am sure that people who enjoyed one book will love the other.

Here is a short video clip, which gives you a rough idea of where the book is set and Alexander McCall Smith’s thoughts on writing serialised fiction: 

Overall, I found Corduroy Mansions to be mildly entertaining, but I really hope that the sequel builds from the character building of the first book to produce something with a more interesting plot.


The first chapter of The Dog Who Came In From The Cold will be published tomorrow on the Telegraph website. You can read it for free, but I am more excited about being able to hear the audio book. I think the light, entertaining nature of this series will make it perfect for listening to. I am pleased to see that Andrew Sachs is reading the book, as I think he is an excellent narrator. You can subscribe to the podcast (also free!) from the same page.

Have you read Corduroy Mansions?

Are you planning to read The Dog Who Came In From The Cold?