Synopses & Reviews
Corduroy Mansions – Book 3
In the Corduroy Mansions series of novels, set in London’s hip Pimlico neighborhood, we meet a cast of charming eccentrics, including perhaps the world’s most clever terrier, who make their home in a handsome, though slightly dilapidated, apartment block.
It seems the universe itself is conspiring against the residents of Corduroy Mansions, as they all find themselves struggling with their nearest and dearest. Oedipus Snark’s mother, Berthea, is still at work on her scathing biography of her son — the only loathsome Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament; literary agents Rupert Porter and Barbara Ragg are still battling each other for first crack at the manuscript of Autobiography of a Yeti; fine arts graduate Caroline Jarvis is busy exploring the blurry line between friendship and romance; and William French is still worrying that his son, Eddie, may never leave home, even though Eddie’s got a new wealthy girlfriend. But uppermost in everyone’s mind is William’s faithful terrier, Freddie de la Hay — without a doubt the only dog clever enough to have been recruited by MI6 — who has disappeared while on a mystery tour around the Suffolk countryside. Will Freddie find his way back to Pimlico? Is Corduroy Mansions starting to crumble?
Readers will be captivated once again by McCall Smith’s genius for storytelling, his insight into his beautifully crafted characters and his eye for the quirky details of modern life.
“McCall Smith is by turns hilarious at capturing foibles and meditative about the huge role chance and the plots of others play in our lives. Fascinating fare. How can a writer as prolific as McCall Smith continue to be so popular? Ask his millions of fans, who will be waiting in line for this one.” Booklist (starred)
“Teeming with charm, this confection takes its cue from Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City....There are as many plots in this genial, satisfying narrative as there are characters, and it’s a testament to Smith’s gifts as a storyteller that he’s able to bind the whole together with such a slender narrative thread. His ample humor and grace helps.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This third volume of Chekhovian soap opera is every bit as addictive as the first two. Fans will be sad to see any of the plots tied up, even by happy endings, and hope for more complications next season.” Kirkus Reviews
The universe seems to be conspiring against Freddie de la Hay and his neighbors at Corduroy Mansions, as they all struggle with their nearest and dearest in this captivating third installment of Alexander McCall Smith’s London series.
Berthea Snark is still at work on a scathing biography of her son, Oedipus, the only loathsome Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament; literary agents Rupert Porter and Barbara Ragg are in a showdown for first crack at the Autobiography of a Yeti manuscript; fine arts graduate Caroline Jarvis is exploring the blurry line between friendship and romance; and William French is worrying that his son, Eddie, will never leave home, even with Eddie’s new, wealthy girlfriend in the picture. But foremost in everyone’s mind is William’s faithful dog, Freddie de la Hay, who has disappeared while on a mystery tour of the Suffolk countryside. Will Freddie find his way home, or will Corduroy Mansions be left without its beloved mascot?
About the Author
Alexander McCall Smith
is also the author of 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 with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He lives in Scotland. Visit him at www.alexandermccallsmith.com.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
in a starred review of this novel, stated “McCall Smith is by turns hilarious at capturing foibles and meditative about the huge role chance and the plots of others play in our lives.” Do you agree with this assessment of A Conspiracy of Friends
? What role does chance and the plots of others have in this novel?
2. This novel, as did the first two in the Corduroy Mansions series, first appeared as a chapter a day in the British newspaper The Telegraph. Does the flow differ in this serial novel than in his more traditional novels (like those in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series)? Does it change your reading experience knowing that it was written to be read as a chapter a day?
3. What do you predict will happen in the next volume? Will William and Marcia be together? Will Caroline and Ronald? Hugh and Barbara? What will happen with Oedipus and Terrence and their relationships with Berthea?
4. To what does the title refer? And how is this novel about friendships? Friendship between old friends, new friends, males and females, with animals. Discuss them all.
5. Most of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels are filled with stories, poetry, and literary references. This novel mentions William Butler Yeats and Irish Murdoch, a children’s book about a dog, a graduate thesis, and more. What do you think the author is saying about the importance of stories, books and poetry in our lives?
6. How is Irish Murdoch crucial to the plot of A Conspiracy of Friends? If you’ve read Murdoch, why do you think the author references her over other 20th century authors?
7. What is the importance of and relevance of metaphors in A Conspiracy of Friends?
8. Is William the main character of the novel? He seems to have the most philosophical musings. Or is it Freddie de la Hay?
9. With which character do you most identify? Why?
10. Why does Caroline lie to James? Do you think her lie in this case should be forgiven? How often do you think the average person fibs in a week? What would you have done in Caroline’s predicament? Do we have a moral obligation to lie or tell the truth at times?
11. Why is Oedipus such a “flawed character” that even his own mother doesn’t like him? Is she likeable and believable as his biographer?
12. Discuss Berthea’s relationship with the men in her life, with both her brother and son.
13. Why does Barbara change her mind about Hugh? Does the story Hugh shares reveal traits of his she didn’t previously know he had? Does the story trigger something in Barbara and unearth self-revelations and make her more self-aware?
How does losing Freddie de la Hay and Maggie’s confession drive William to Marcia? Do you think his feelings at the end of the novel are genuine and he’ll learn to love and appreciate her?
15. What does Eddie learn about himself through meeting with and working with Cosmo Bartonette?
16. Do you have any superstitions like Barbara Ragg has? Why do you continue practicing or believing in them?
17. Do you agree with William in believing that most great works of art and beauty stem from religion or faith?
18. What do you think the author is saying about appreciating the small things in life and imposing a sense of purpose to everything we do? Do you believe, as William, and perhaps the author, that everything that happens is a small miracle?