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5.0 out of 5 starsBertie is one of those intelligent, not-quite-like-the-others little boy who thinks things through in ...
Reviewed in the United States on May 14, 2016
None of the word choices suggested by Amazon can possibly touch what Alexander McCall Smith does with his plots and characters. Yes, it's typically Smith's -- the characters that make you smile and laugh and even cry. Yes, it has a "plot," of sorts, but that's just not the right word. Perhaps a series of tied-together vignettes painting vivid, heart-warming, frustrating, surprising, predictable, unpredictable, unique characters, thrown into a common area in Scotland and therefore knowing one another sometimes all too well. Bertie is one of those intelligent, not-quite-like-the-others little boy who thinks things through in his own way. His poor, beaten-down father and his unusual, free-spirited mother (who often tempts me to smack her up side of the head, if only I could), the other unique characters who live at 44 Scotland Street ... well, they eventually pull you in and keep you coming back for yet another episode, and another. You know, somehow, it's all going to turn out just fine, but you just can't quite figure out how. Typical of the author, the book moves along quite slowly, with many detours and meanderings. The reader must be patient until at last, he/she realizes that this is the way life is, in a specific area and time,in a group of ordinary and extraordinary human beings, and if we would take the TIME to see it, read it, absorb it, we will be all the better for it. Keep 'em coming, Alexander McCall Smith.
3.0 out of 5 starsAnother very agreeable installment in a fine series.
Reviewed in the United States on August 18, 2018
This is the ninth book in the 44 Scotland Street series. As with the earlier volumes, it interweaves the stories of a diverse set of characters: the highly likable 6-year-old Bertie; his far less likable mother; Big Lou, a kind-hearted owner of a coffee shop, and a dozen others. I note that in this volume I especially liked the thread with Big Lou and, as ever, Bertie. The book is easy reading, lightened by humor. The author's generosity of heart helps me feel some sympathy even for characters--such as Bertie's mother--whom I would normally purely dislike. While it doesn't give me the same joy as McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books, it is nonetheless very agreeable company. Recommended.
4.0 out of 5 starsBertie's continuing awful Mother problems
Reviewed in the United States on August 23, 2013
As usual poor Bertie has great problems in combating his overbearing and simply awful Mother. Nice to realise that he and his rather useless Father plus of course Ulyses will enjoy a period of bliss and contentment. It is of great pleasure to catch up with all the other inhabitants of 44 Scotland Street i.e. Angus and Domenica with Cyril, Matthew and Elspeth with the triplets, and Big Lou. I always enjoy these books.........they brighten up the day.
Reviewed in the United States on November 11, 2017
Am a big fan of McCall Smith and have read all tge books in this series and others. Usually enjoy following the characters. This book just missed the mark. Found it very disjointed and the subplots of the characters unrealistic and then left hanging with no closure such as Bruce with the waxing. Title is misleading as Bertie is not really featured in the book. Die hard fans may read it but a person who is reading author for first time will be thoroughly confused. Felt that author needed to turn out a book to meet some dradline and thwas
5.0 out of 5 starsBertie the Eternal Seven Year Old
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2014
The hilarious adventures of eternally-seven Bertie continues. Fans of the 44 Scotland Street series won't want to miss this one, and everyone else in the world who hasn't gotten into the series is to be pitied. I especially recommend it to new mothers-- no matter how inept you are, reading about Bertie's mother will make you feel really good about yourself because no matter how badly you think you've messed up your kid, you can't compare to her. The funniest thing about the series is that we all know women exactly like Bertie's mother, not to mention Bertie's schoolmates Tofu, Hiawatha, and the rest, in his progressive school. There's also Bertie's little brother, who vomits copiously every time his mother picks him up, and who looks startlingly like the psychologist Bertie's mother takes him to. Bertie has to wear denim pants of crushed-strawberry color because his mother doesn't believe in gender-specific clothing. She also painted his bedroom pink. Bertie is very busy with his Italian and saxophone and yoga lessons, and the progressive school-- and as a result, he is precocious about some things that it were far better he were not. I recommend reading the series in order of its publication for maximum enjoyment. The series is absolutely priceless. You'll love it.
5.0 out of 5 starsExcellent episode in the 44 Scotland Street stories
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2014
This is the ninth in this series, I have them all. I would not recommend reading these out of order, they are like parts of a very long story. In this one there are a number of big developments and many interesting smaller ones. The best things that happen are: Bertie finally turns seven! And something absolutely brilliant happens to Irene that changes Bertie's life in a wonderful way. Alexander McCall Smith's philosophy of life is what makes all of his books so delightful. In the chapter "The Whole Point of the World," Pat falls in love. McCall-Smith's musings on how it feels when this happens is worth the whole price of the book. Because, being in love is the whole point of the world. I cannot wait for the next of this series. What will happen to Irene next? Big Lou and Finlay? And will we hear any more of Sister Fiore-Maria's deep wisdom? Elspeth and Matthew ( what in the world is keeping Matthew so disengaged?) move to a historic estate large enough for triplets and two nannys. And one of them, Anne, may be the nemesis of the narcissistic Bruce. (We can only hope) I never want to read this author quickly. The beautiful writing is too good to rush.
4.0 out of 5 starsMostly excellent - some tedious aspects alas
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 15, 2020
As always it is the quality of the writing rather than any actual plot which make these books so readable. Strong storylines for Pat and Big Lou in this latest offering. The Scottish nudists make another appearance for some reason and, as another review said, was this to pad out the book? Likewise the continuing use of that nun's lengthy, full name became massively tiresome to the extent that I glossed over the parts where she featured. I can take a certain laxity in continuity and far-fetched stuff but there were aspects which made this book a touch difficult. Having been dispatched in a shipping container a few novels ago, Irene ends up in a Bedouin harem? Steady on.
I am enormously impressed by the author's output. I have looked him up on Wikipedia which provides a categorised listing of all his books: those set in Botswana, those in Edinburgh, those in London (Pimlico) and those set in Switzerland. I have read samples of each but I am drawn to those in Edinburgh: namely those with Elizabeth Dalhousie as the protagonist, and those based on Scotland Street which features to day to day activities of a variety of amiable, outgoing, well educated (or self educated) folk, mostly aged between 20 and 50, with the principal exception of Bertie who, after seemingly ages aged SIX, has now finally turned SEVEN.
Bertie is exceptionally gifted (speaks Italian, plays the saxophone, reads and understands newspapers. Unfortunately he is also gifted with a crazy mother, Irene whose distorted take on feminism makes her determined to bring up Bertie as 'gender neutral'; whereas Bertie himself much prefers to be treated like other boys, e.g., he wants a Swiss army penknife for his birthday. And what of Bertie's father Stuart. He's on Bertie's side of course but one wonders how he and Irene got together in the first place. I guess we will never find out: it's in the past but the future is yours to find out - by reading the book!
4.0 out of 5 starsIs he taking the mickey or not? I don't get it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 26, 2019
I am not entirely sure what the author is trying to achieve. The stories are quite good, but I can't decide whether his constant observations about Edinburgh, Edinburgh people and their thoughts are supposed to be genuine or a mickey-take. These comments are more than slightly grating on my nerves to the point that I might want to punch somebody that I think might harbour these pathetic thoughts!
And besides that, I have totally lost interest in all the charavters but Bertie. All I want to know is that Irene gets her cumuppence and Bertie gets a normal life. Anything else is now negligible.
Out of all the Scotland Street books this one was my favourite by far. It was one of the funniest for sure. The story continues to follow the gang at Scotland Street and beyond through their lives and the every day occurrences that happen to them make for some funny reading. At long last Bertie is about to turn seven but sadly thanks to his mother won't be getting the knife he longs for, a surprise visitor invites herself to Angus and Domenica's house causing chaos and friction for them. Exhaustion continues to overtake the parents of triplet boys and Matthew and Elspeth contemplate hiring another au pair to help them out Bruce's appearance in the story while short is one of the best ever. Pat finally finds herself falling in love, but worried about his father after getting hints there might be romance in his life too. I found this book difficult to put down and had a trouble keeping my mouth shut when around my parents as I wanted to share details, but my father insists he doesn't want to know and will read it himself. So off this book goes to my father this afternoon and my enforced silence within the family on this charming, funny and truly enjoyable read will soon be over. This is a great summer read, a great book to take on vacation, for reading on a plane or in a car (I read it in the car returning from a family vacation and the hours flew by) and I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, quick and gentle read to pass the time.
If this is your first venture into the novels of Alexander McCall Smith, particularly the 44 Scotland Street series that deals with the lives of the inhabitants and former inhabitants of apartments at that Edinburgh address, as well as with associated characters, I would advise you not to start here. If you are, like me, a long-time fan and someone who has bought -mostly at the inexcusably high prices charged by Australian bookshops- and read around 30 of the 40 or so novels AMS has written, then I would save your money. The cast of characters is much as before with a few newcomers to like or dislike as you wish, and the style of writing is as pleasantly fluid as it has always been but when one thread in the novel disappears over the precipice into wild implausibility I only continued reading because it occurs so far into the novel that I wanted to discover what happens in other threads. Bertie Pollock is, of course, the main focal point as he turns 7. His birthday does not start well when his domineering mother, the awful Irene, gives him unwished for presents when all he really wants is a Swiss army penknife and to go to a Scout camp. Then Irene wins a prize in a slogan-writing competition and flies at short notice to Dubai for a 5-day holiday. What happens on her flight and in the emirate is so ridiculously unbelievable that it spoils the whole novel for me. That episode then made me question other aspects of the book. - Narcissistic Bruce is granted two chapters. What happens to him should have been taken further but isn't. - Cyril, Angus Lordie's lovely dog, is still there. AMS intuitively understands dogs and their owners but after a run-in with an animal welfare officer in a pub, again, there is scope to take it further, but the author doesn't except to say, later on, that the matter isn't taken further! - Possibly the most baffling episode in the book is the account, over two chapters, of a special meeting of The Association of Scottish Nudists. This body has, from memory, been mentioned in a previous novel, but here it is set down like an alien on Earth. It has no connection with any other part of the book -other than it is set in Edinburgh- and only one person is mentioned by name. That name also has no connection, as far as I can see, with anyone else named in the novel. - Finally, one of the new characters is an Italian nun who rejoices in the name Sister Maria-Fiore dei Fiore di Montagna. She is given her full name throughout and that starts to grate. In the "Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, Mr J L B Matekone is always referred to in that manner and that works well but when the device is extended here it doesn't in my view. It's a syllable, or perhaps 7 or 8 syllables, too far. In an earlier novel in the series, Irene admits that, perhaps, her method of bringing up Bertie had been wrong so I had the impression at the time that, that is where the series was going to end but, no, it continued. Did his many fans or his publisher persuade him to carry on? I have the feeling that, in this case, Mr McCall Smith was under pressure from having to meet contractual deadlines. I stopped reading his "Isabel Dalhousie" series of novels a while ago because I tired of characters such as Isabel taking a page or more in deciding, for example, that "Good Morning" was the appropriate thing to say to that person at that time. Unless I can be persuaded otherwise I won't be buying any more of the "44 Scotland Street" series.