I’m really pleased to have the opportunity to tell you about the rather excellent company The Book People. If you are a book lover, I’m sure you’ll already be aware of them but if not, let me tell you a bit about them. The Book People gives their customers the chance to buy books, gifts, toys and stationery at up to 75% off the recommended price – from bargain books to the latest bestsellers, children’s books, beloved classics, tasty cookbooks and more. I have lost count of how many books I personally have bought from them over the years from treats for myself to gifts for family and friends. I’m delighted to be partnering with The Book People to highlight some of the great books you can buy from them and am beginning today by reviewing Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith. This is one of the many ‘hand picked favourites‘ available from The Book People and if fiction is your thing you can find this and many other excellent suggestions by following this link: Fiction Novels
The concept behind this book is that Alexander McCall Smith asked if he could use some photos from Historic Environment Scotland’s huge collection of old photographs as prompts for stories. Nothing is known about the people in the photographs and the author has constructed five stories inspired by five photos. Love, in one form or another, is what they all have in common. This idea of being inspired by old photos really spoke to me. I have lots of old photos of my ancestors from the late 19th century. Sometimes I know who they are but often I have no idea, beyond an occasional scribble on the back. Even when I do know which family member they show, I would just love to have known more about their lives, more than I have been able to glean from birth, marriage, death and census records. Take the photo below. It shows my great great grandfather John Cameron. Looks rather forbidding doesn’t he and what an impressive beard! But look where the photo was taken – Hong Kong. I have another photo of his son, my great grandfather, also taken in Hong Kong but no-one in the family has any idea of why they were there and what they were doing. It’s the kind of thing I’d love to know. Perhaps I should write my own story about him!
Getting back to this book, it is a little gem of a book. I have the hardback and it is just beautiful. It is diminutive in size and includes the photos which have inspired the stories. Alexander McCall Smith writes with his trademark warmth and gentle humour and takes his reader from Edinburgh to Italy, Ireland, America and Australia. My favourite story was Sister Flora’s First Day of Freedom. I have seen the photo which inspired it before, a woman caught in a shaft of sunlight at Waverley Station. I think I enjoyed this one most because of the Edinburgh setting. McCall Smith writes with affection about Edinburgh society, capturing beautifully the ladies taking tea at Jenners and hosting dinner parties with carefully selected guests at home. It makes an excellent start to a lovely collection of stories.
Chance Developments is a lovely book which is a pleasure to read. It would make an ideal gift for any book lover. Or just treat yourself!
My thanks to Kieran at The Book People for my copy of this book. It was published in hardback by Polygon in November 2015. You can order a copy from The Book People here: Chance Developments
From the back of the book
It is said that a picture may be worth a thousand words but an old photograph can inspire many more. In this beguiling book, Alexander McCall Smith casts his eye over five chanced-upon photographs from the era of black-and-white photography and imagines the stories behind them. Who were those people, what were their stories, why are they smiling, what made them sad? What emerges are surprising and poignant tales of love and friendship in a variety of settings an estate in the Highlands of Scotland, a travelling circus in Canada, an Australian gold-mining town, a village in Ireland, and the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Some will find joy and fulfilment others would prefer happier endings. Each of them, though, will find love, and that is ultimately what matters.