Chance Developments | Penguin Random House Canada
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Chance Developments

Unexpected Love Stories

Publisher: Knopf Canada


It is said that a picture may be worth a thousand words but an old photograph can inspire many more. In this beguiling book, McCall Smith casts his eye over five “orphaned” 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. A dapper, roguish-looking man perching on a lady’s knee sparks the story of a ventriloquist and an animal handler who work in a circus, and who, under the most delightfully unexpected circumstances, fall in love. The image of a woman haloed by light in a train station becomes the lighthearted tale of a nun’s decision to leave the sisterhood and discover what and whom the big city has to offer.
Some will find joy and fulfillment; others would prefer happier endings. Each of them, though, will find love, and that is ultimately what matters. Romantic, wistful and poignant, Chance Developments brims with flourishes of grace and humor that could only come from the pen of Alexander McCall Smith.


   Flora ordered a pot of tea and a plate of sandwiches.
   ‘You’ve come to Edinburgh to do some shopping?’ asked Helena.
   Flora looked up at the ornate ceiling. She did not enjoy small talk; she never had. And now, quite suddenly, she felt the need to...
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“[C]omforting, touching and often funny. . . . [T]hese stories trust in the liberal, humane values that are at the heart of all McCall Smith’s fiction. Can one have too much of that hopefulness? I doubt it.” —The New York Times 

“[Chance Developments] is vintage McCall Smith and if anyone is looking for an early Christmas gift, they should look no further. A reader may wonder whether if there were no Alexander McCall Smith, he would have to be invented.” —The Washington Times

“McCall Smith once again exhibits his versatility with this vibrant and delightful collection of short stories all centering on the themes of love and happenstance. . . . Both uplifting and at times bittersweet and emotional, this collection is sure to delight both Smith fans and newcomers alike.” —Publishers Weekly 

“[B]eautiful book. . . . Like all his writing, these stories are full of insight and empathy. . . . [W]orks of depth and beauty that would not be shamed in the company of the world's great short stories.” — The Sydney Morning Herald 

 “In all these stories, love and goodness ultimately win out, but the charming details and bittersweet human cost are what resonate.” —Kirkus Review 

“The two most memorable stories are ‘Angels In Italy’ and ‘He Wanted To Believe In Tenderness.’ It’s impossible to say much about the former without giving away the ending, but the latter is a profoundly moving exploration of the idea that, sometimes, love really can conquer all.” —The Scotsman

“I love [McCall Smith’s] books that are set in Botswana, and his ability to create a good story shines in these short stories.” —Missoulian (MT)

“Alexander McCall Smith has transformed five forgotten photos into a discovery of delight.” —Lovereading

“McCall Smith’s latest is a collection of five short stories each based on an old black-and-white photograph. The true origin and context of these images is unknown, but through them McCall Smith is able—delightfully—to bring each character to life. . . . McCall Smith writes with clarity, humor, and thoughtfulness. He understands his protagonists well, and succeeds in letting the reader share part of their journey. . . . McCall Smith’s tone is so constant and reliable that readers—happily—can feel him with them, wherever his characters may go.” —The Christian Science Monitor 

“[Alexander McCall Smith] comes up with highly believable scenarios for his characters, complete with a back story that explains the exact moment of their capture on camera.” —The Sydney Morning Herald 


"McCall Smith's accomplished novels [are] dependent on small gestures redolent with meaning and main characters blessed with pleasing personalities." —Newsday

“McCall Smith is prolific and he’s habit-forming. He’s the crystal meth of popular fiction.” —The Globe and Mail

“Alexander McCall Smith is an excellent, old-fashioned storyteller.” —The Gazette

“Scotland’s one-man novel factory. . . . Smith’s writing has tons of charm and kindly wisdom.” The Times

“McCall Smith’s talent for dialogue is matched only by his gift for characterization.” —Chicago Tribune
“McCall Smith makes the sublime look easy. . . . [He] has few peers in capturing the quiet moments of people’s lives.” —Publishers Weekly
“McCall Smith’s characters are well-drawn and alive. . . . A writer . . . who charms many readers.” —Providence Journal
“A prolific, popular and wonderfully peculiar writer.” —The Independent

"McCall Smith is a wonderful storyteller, and his stories are characteristically filled with humour and an innate, affectionate disposition towards the human race.” —The Sydney Morning Herald