Chance Developments

Chance Developments

by Alexander McCall Smith

Paperback(Large Print)

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From the bestselling author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series comes this splendid collection. 

Inspired by antique photographs, these five stunning short stories capture the surprising intersections of love and friendship that alter life's journeys. In “Angels in Italy,” childhood friends, separated by circumstance, learn the enduring power of a first love. “Sister Flora's First Day of Freedom” introduces us to a young nun who makes a difficult decision to leave the sisterhood and finds delightful new riches in the big city of Edinburgh. The enchanting “Dear Ventriloquist” tells of a mishap at a Canadian circus that sparks unexpected magic between a gifted puppeteer and a dapper lion tamer. Changing a tire changes the life of a young Irish teacher in “The Woman with the Beautiful Car,” and a young New Zealander learns what matters in life from his grandfather, a WWII veteran, in “He Wanted to Believe in Tenderness.” These charming and poignant stories are a testament to the power of human connection and brim with a grace and humor that could only come from the pen of Alexander McCall Smith.

(With black-and-white photographs throughout.)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735205994
Publisher: Diversified Publishing
Publication date: 07/12/2016
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,215,879
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH is the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels and a number of other series and stand-alone books. His works have been translated into more than forty languages and have been best sellers throughout the world. He lives in Scotland.


Edinburgh, Scotland

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1948

Place of Birth:


Read an Excerpt

Sister Flora’s First Day of Freedom

Excerpted from "Chance Developments"
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Copyright © 2016 Alexander McCall Smith.
Excerpted by permission of Diversified Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Author’s Note ix
Sister Flora’s First Day of Freedom 3
Angels in Italy 51
Dear Ventriloquist 109
The Woman with the Beautiful Car 159
He Wanted to Believe in Tenderness 193

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith. This new book is a collection of thematically linked short stories on the subject of love, each one inspired by an intriguing old photograph.

1. In the first story, “Sister Flora’s First Day of Freedom,” Flora decides, “I am my own person . . . I am entitled to look for God in this world in the way I choose to do” (p. 16-17). Why does she feel the need to leave the convent, and how does she choose to look for God once she leaves?

2. What do you think Flora will decide to do at the end of the first story?

3. Discuss the title of “Angels in Italy.” Why do you think the author chose this title? What does it mean in the context of the story?

4. A character in “Angels in Italy” says, “We all have something to be sorry about. Every one of us. And we often don’t have the chance to say anything . . . Then it’s too late” (p. 94). Who is sorry in this story and why? Is this sentiment justified? Have you experienced this sentiment at any point in your life?

5. Do you agree with the narrator of “Dear Ventriloquist” that “we can live with a minor fault-line in the heart—most of us do, in one way or another” (p. 106)? How does this statement apply to the story?

6. What is Ronald O’Carroll’s predicament in “The Woman with the Beautiful Car”? Do you agree with his decision to stay in his home village, or do you think he should have left for the city (like Flora in the first story)?

7. Do you think Ronald acted unethically when he put the tacks on the road, or does the end—or the good intention—justify the means?

8. Discuss the relationships between fathers and sons in the final story, “He Wanted to Believe in Tenderness.”

9. The narrator in “He Wanted to Believe in Tenderness” says of David, “He wanted to believe in tenderness, in kindness, but now, perhaps, it was too late. Something had been unleashed that would make it impossible to go back to what had been before” (p. 211). What do you think has been unleashed? How does David attempt to make a life for himself afterward?

10. At the end of his life, David calls himself “lucky” to have had a home he was proud of, to have fought in a war for a worthwhile cause, and to have had family members to love (p. 227). Would you agree that his life was a fortunate one?

11. Pain and tragedy persist alongside love and happiness in the stories. What tragedy, trauma, or difficult experience does each character go through and overcome in the book? Are some of the tragedies more devastating than others, or are they all equally meaningful in their own way?

12. Discuss the significance of chance encounters and unexpected events in this collection. How does this theme figure in each of the five stories? Can an undesirable surprise ultimately lead to desirable results or vice versa?

13. The stories McCall Smith creates about these photographs are, of course, the product of one author’s imagination. What stories do the photographs in Chance Developments evoke for you?

14. How does Chance Developments compare to other works by Alexander McCall Smith?

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Chance Developments: Stories 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Chance Developments is a collection of five short stories by popular British author, Alexander McCall Smith. Who of us doesn’t enjoy a bit of people watching on occasion? To watch strangers and imagine what their story might be? This book is Alexander McCall Smith’s version of people watching: five old black-and-white photographs, about which nothing is known, are the inspiration for these stories. McCall Smith creates a story about the subjects of the photographs, making them ordinary people in ordinary, or sometimes not-so-ordinary, situations. Sister Flora’s First Day of Freedom: a nun in Scotland, the recipient of a legacy, leaves the convent, her home of ten years, with a specific goal in mind. Angels in Italy: an artist who regrets his behaviour as a young man learns something surprising when reunited with a friend from his youth. Dear Ventriloquist: a young circus performer’s fortune-telling proves to be unexpectedly accurate. The Woman with the Beautiful Car: a young man acts in an uncharacteristic way to gain the attention of a lady. He Wanted to Believe in Tenderness: an old man counts his blessings despite a less-than-ideal life. Across a range of diverse settings, McCall Smith gives the reader stories with happiness, heartache, joy and sorrow; some will produce a lump in the throat, others, a smile, a chuckle or a laugh. Five unexpected love stories that will delight McCall Smith fans.