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.
Smith once again exhibits his versatility with this vibrant and delightful collection of short stories all centering on the themes of love and happenstance. Preceding each story is a vintage photograph that Smith found while doing research for a different project, and from each photo a world emerges. In each story, the black-and-white static figures become people dreaming of new beginnings and romance, reminiscing on good times past, or lamenting lost love and opportunities. Smith peels off the layers of anonymity in these forgotten photos and imagines a new life for the subjects, and in one case the photographer. Featuring a nun abandoning her lifelong commitment to the veil to start fresh in a bigger city, a young circus performer who unwittingly tells an accurate fortune, and a man who stoops to a bit of subterfuge to meet a pretty lady, the stories are filled with the weight of real life and how chance finds its way in, no matter how we attempt to plan otherwise. Both uplifting and at times bittersweet and emotional, this collection is sure to delight both Smith fans and newcomers alike.