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Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers

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It's not that poor Bertie Pollock is wishing his life away, but having anticipated his 7th birthday for so long he's now longing to be 18. But there's a lot of living to do and Bertie isn't alone amongst the residents of Scotland Street in trying to do just that - with mixed fortunes. It's not that poor Bertie Pollock is wishing his life away, but having anticipated his 7th birthday for so long he's now longing to be 18. But there's a lot of living to do and Bertie isn't alone amongst the residents of Scotland Street in trying to do just that - with mixed fortunes.


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It's not that poor Bertie Pollock is wishing his life away, but having anticipated his 7th birthday for so long he's now longing to be 18. But there's a lot of living to do and Bertie isn't alone amongst the residents of Scotland Street in trying to do just that - with mixed fortunes. It's not that poor Bertie Pollock is wishing his life away, but having anticipated his 7th birthday for so long he's now longing to be 18. But there's a lot of living to do and Bertie isn't alone amongst the residents of Scotland Street in trying to do just that - with mixed fortunes.

30 review for Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jon McKnight

    As a comic novelist myself, I really ought to hate Alexander McCall Smith. Not because of his extraordinary success, though that's undeniably enviable; nor even because of his ability to churn out fine novels with a regularity that would shame a sausage machine; but because of the sheer facility with which he seems to write, the natural and engaging style of his literary voice, and the educated, subtle humour that runs through his work like DNA. His 44 Scotland Street novels (there are nine so fa As a comic novelist myself, I really ought to hate Alexander McCall Smith. Not because of his extraordinary success, though that's undeniably enviable; nor even because of his ability to churn out fine novels with a regularity that would shame a sausage machine; but because of the sheer facility with which he seems to write, the natural and engaging style of his literary voice, and the educated, subtle humour that runs through his work like DNA. His 44 Scotland Street novels (there are nine so far, not 44, though I look forward to the next 35) are not dissimilar to soap in hardback, with familiar and mostly endearing characters who come and go and flit between volumes, vanishing then reappearing like old friends do in our own lives. When you finish one book, the joy and satisfaction you feel is tinged with frustration that the next book is going to be a year away - a feeling not unlike that of watching the conclusion of a series of Downton Abbey then realising there'll be a long wait for the next one. It's Alexander's own fault, of course, though one can hardly accuse him of laziness. If he only manages one 44 Scotland Street novel a year, it's because he's simultaneously writing a novel a year for each of his other franchises - Corduroy Mansions, The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and The Sunday Philosophy Club series amongst them. For me, those are pleasures still to come. If they are even half as well-written as the 44 Scotland Street novels, they deserve a place on anyone's bookshelves. Some might dismiss the 44 Scotland Street novels as easy reading, in the same way that they disparage music that millions of people over several generations have enjoyed as easy listening. But they would be missing the point: to make a well-constructed, compelling and beautifully crafted novel that easy to read requires more literary skill than writing one that is inaccessible, unengaging, and only likely to appeal to a handful of people who happen to have swallowed the same thesaurus. For Alexander's prose is truly beautiful. Every word is worth its ink, and although his phrases seem to slip from his pen like mercury through a schoolboy's fingers, I suspect that a lot of unseen head-scratching lies behind the polished results he presents to us. At least I hope so, otherwise he'd be even more annnoying. It's a fair bet that Alexander loves writing his novels every bit as much as we enjoy reading them, and that unlike Dr Frankenstein whose creation came back to bite him, the author would find his characters rather congenial company should he somehow find himself living among them in real life. Though I suspect that, like the rest of us, he'd be reaching for the phone to ring the NSPCC if he ever found himself living next door to one of his creations, Irene Pollock. She is the mother from Hell - an utter nightmare of a parent whose terrible treatment of her beleagured little boy, Bertie, is in no way mitigated by the fact that she is motivated throughout by good intentions. Think of every absurdity in the political correctness armoury, every crackpot childcare theory, every misguided gender-neutrality regime and its doomed but determined attempts to deny that boys will be boys, and you'll begin to have an inkling of what poor Bertie has to put up with. Don't be at all surprised if you hear Laurie Taylor on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed talking to some sociologist who's advocating that Irene's treatment of the fictional Bertie should be the subject of a Serious Case Review. In this, the ninth in the series, Bertie finally turns seven and finds that instead of the Swiss Army penknife he craves, he's been given a Junior UN Peacekeeping Kit and, worse, a "play figure" that everyone except Irene can clearly see is a doll called Jo who is gender-neutral and would, if only it were possible, be disparaged by ditchwater for its comparative dullness. Every single element of fun that a six or seven-year-old boy should be allowed to experience is absent from his life - and instead he is spreadsheeted almost out of existence by his Steiner School-loving, muesli-eating, Munchausen's-By-Proxy-practising, psychology-obsessed, New Age weirdo of a mother who, if only she lived up the road from me in that part of Devon renowned for its alternative approach to living, would be known around the world as the Totnes Monster. Irene is a character so well drawn and so believable that she deserves to transcend the books themselves and become as much a part of the popular imagination as Miss Havisham, Dr Jekyll, or Fagin. If Alexander achieved nothing else, that would be a claim to fame. But that would be only scratching the surface, as millions of others know and I will no doubt discover when I turn my attention to his other series of books. I've resisted quoting even a single line of his in this review as to do so would be a spoiler, however mild. Instead, I urge anyone who hasn't read the 44 Scotland Street novels to treat themselves - and if they can get a discount for buying all nine at the same time, they should take it, because they'll end up reading them all and waiting for the tenth anyway. • Jon McKnight is author of the comic novel A Prize To Die For.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Su

    There is no greater antidote to waiting for exam results and the outcome of an important interview than to spend a couple of days at 44 Scotland Street with my beloved Bertie Pollock. At last Bertie in on the verge of being 7, but of course his appalling, deluded amateur psychologist mother is going to cast a cloud over the preceedings...... How brilliantly Mr McCall Smith ensures that at least Bertie has some joy in his little life, and a few adventures on the way, including pizza in the Dear Gre There is no greater antidote to waiting for exam results and the outcome of an important interview than to spend a couple of days at 44 Scotland Street with my beloved Bertie Pollock. At last Bertie in on the verge of being 7, but of course his appalling, deluded amateur psychologist mother is going to cast a cloud over the preceedings...... How brilliantly Mr McCall Smith ensures that at least Bertie has some joy in his little life, and a few adventures on the way, including pizza in the Dear Green Place - how can you beat that??? Elsewhere, is Pat in love - and what about Dr MacGregor? Has Bruce met his match? Is it really possible that the dreadful Antonia has the most annoying friend in the world or is it the triplets' au pair's au pair? The only problem with a Scotland Street book is that you read it too quick and the wait is too long before you can pop back.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christie

    Brilliant book, it feels like catching up with old friends when I read the books in this series. I recommend this series of books to everyone.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    4.75 stars. This series just keeps getting better. This one is my favorite so far, although I've had three favorites in the past four books! Needless to say, I'll be moving right along to the next one. I can't think of a better author to read if your mood/situation calls for a gentle story that isn't too light. I have become so attached to these characters! And really good things finally happened for my two favorites in this volume. AMS, never stop writing! I just love you and your wonderful boo 4.75 stars. This series just keeps getting better. This one is my favorite so far, although I've had three favorites in the past four books! Needless to say, I'll be moving right along to the next one. I can't think of a better author to read if your mood/situation calls for a gentle story that isn't too light. I have become so attached to these characters! And really good things finally happened for my two favorites in this volume. AMS, never stop writing! I just love you and your wonderful books. Long may you wave. 💙📚

  5. 4 out of 5

    Adri

    I have said it before, but I will say it again: Alexander McCall Smith creates characters that one instantly loves. And Bertie is one of those, and Cyril the dog. I love the gentle contemplativeness of the stories, the way AMS makes one think twice about how we should behave towards one another and never forget the important things in life: love, consideration, respect, awareness, etc. Another thing is the way in which AMS describes the places in his books, with such love and clarity that one ju I have said it before, but I will say it again: Alexander McCall Smith creates characters that one instantly loves. And Bertie is one of those, and Cyril the dog. I love the gentle contemplativeness of the stories, the way AMS makes one think twice about how we should behave towards one another and never forget the important things in life: love, consideration, respect, awareness, etc. Another thing is the way in which AMS describes the places in his books, with such love and clarity that one just yearns to live there as well. Whenever I read a book by AMS I feel like I have come home.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Reading an episode in Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street series is like sitting down for a long conversation with an old friend in a comfy chair in front of a roaring fire, glass of wine or scotch in hand. Always delightful and always over too soon. In this installment Bertie finally reaches that great age of 7. It's been a long time coming for Bertie (several books in fact), especially since he's waiting for the day when he turns 18 and can escape to Glasgow (that epicentre of freedom and Reading an episode in Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street series is like sitting down for a long conversation with an old friend in a comfy chair in front of a roaring fire, glass of wine or scotch in hand. Always delightful and always over too soon. In this installment Bertie finally reaches that great age of 7. It's been a long time coming for Bertie (several books in fact), especially since he's waiting for the day when he turns 18 and can escape to Glasgow (that epicentre of freedom and self expression) leaving his domineering mother, Irene, behind. As always a quiet gentle read but somehow a lot happens in this book. Irene's plans for Bertie's party with healthy snacks and gender neutral games is derailed by her unexpected absence (a delightful story in itself!). Pat meets a nice young man and Big Lou may have found someone to focus her big heart on. Angus and Domenica are coerced into hosting ex- neighbour Agnes for a three week holiday along with an Italian Nun who delights everyone by speaking in blindingly obvious aphorisms that somehow sound profound. Lots of fun as usual!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nigel

    4.5 stars or 9/10, rounded up Another excellent addition to this charming series about the everyday lives of a group of Edinburgh residents. McCall Smith's effortless characterisation of his varied cast members, along with his trademark wit, poking gentle fun at the very human foibles we all have, make this series a delight - always leaves me wanting more. Frequently chuckling out loud while reading this - highly recommended. As a side note - this is my first 5 star rating on Goodreads I do really 4.5 stars or 9/10, rounded up Another excellent addition to this charming series about the everyday lives of a group of Edinburgh residents. McCall Smith's effortless characterisation of his varied cast members, along with his trademark wit, poking gentle fun at the very human foibles we all have, make this series a delight - always leaves me wanting more. Frequently chuckling out loud while reading this - highly recommended. As a side note - this is my first 5 star rating on Goodreads I do really like this book, but also my ratings have gradually increased over the last 3-4 years under the influence of the GR community!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Trelawn

    An excellent installment. This series just gets stronger with each book. The characters are so vivid and the trials and tribulations of their everyday lives so beautifully drawn that I always look forward to taking a Scotland Street book off the shelves. Sadly, for now, only one remains to be read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers is the ninth book in the popular 44 Scotland Street series by British author, Alexander McCall Smith. Now almost seven, Bertie Pollock feels like it is years since his last birthday (and readers of this series may well agree, considering The Importance of Being Seven was three books ago). Freedom, for Bertie, is represented by turning eighteen and heading for Glasgow, far from Irene, his domineering mother’s control, far from his therapist, Italian lessons, Yog Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers is the ninth book in the popular 44 Scotland Street series by British author, Alexander McCall Smith. Now almost seven, Bertie Pollock feels like it is years since his last birthday (and readers of this series may well agree, considering The Importance of Being Seven was three books ago). Freedom, for Bertie, is represented by turning eighteen and heading for Glasgow, far from Irene, his domineering mother’s control, far from his therapist, Italian lessons, Yoga for Tots, gender-neutral birthday presents and saxophone practice. The likeability of Irene and her husband Stuart appear to be progressing in inverse proportion, so it is no surprise that Stuart, Bertie and even baby Ulysses enthusiastically encourage Irene to accept a free trip to Dubai. A trip that does not go quite the way Irene expects. The irony of Irene’s ultimate situation is quite delightful. Domenica and Angus are settling into married life: Angus counts his blessings, even if Domenica has discovered behaviour that leads to the slightly alarming prospect of his seeing a psychiatrist. Their ex-neighbour, Antonia, on a visit from Tuscany with the saintly Sister Maria-Fiore dei Fiori di Montagna, (a mistress of the arresting aphorism), utters authoritatively on auras and haloes. The concept of Cyril’s vocabulary is examined and someone gets him drunk. Big Lou makes a major change in her life; Pat Macgregor experiences love at first sight, followed by dislike at first sight; and that well-known narcissist, Bruce experiences a waxing mishap in the pursuit of physical perfection. Matthew and Elspeth, feeling the stress of parenting triplets, engage an au pair for their au pair, a strident your Danish lass with solid opinions. In Irene’s absence, Bertie (definitely the star of this series) gets to eat pizza and manages to go on a longed-for scout camp, where he comforts a fearful friend and has a quite unexpected adventure. As usual, McCall Smith’s characters share their succinct, insightful and often amusing observations on human behaviour: the rituals we perform to placate the gods; driver aggression; the challenges faced by Scottish nudists. The formula for the value of the pound at different ages is explained, reincarnation and the concept of Karma is explored, the proportions of beauty are mused upon, the obstacles to men having female friends are delved into and Ian Rankin makes a cameo appearance. Animal welfare, nasal hair, sympathetic architecture, Marmite, dessert and desert, original sin and the over-analysis of children’s literature all feature. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, and the delightful text is complemented with charming illustrations by Iain McIntosh. As always, the novel ends with a gathering at Domenica’s (and Angus’s): Angus marks the occasion of Bertie’s seventh birthday with a stirring poem. Hilarious in parts, this instalment of the lives of our favourite Edinburgh residents is a wonderful read, as always.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Walsh

    Alexander McCall Smith has several series on the go, and the 44 Scotland Street books have become my favourite. Well developed characters, good humour and a lot of wit, quiet wisdom and philosophy are contained in this beautifully written series. As soon as I finish each book I am anxious for the next. Poor little Bertie is approaching his 7th birthday . He longs to be 18 which seems so far away, so he can move to Glasgow and be free from his dreadful,deluded mother, Irene. He would like a jac Alexander McCall Smith has several series on the go, and the 44 Scotland Street books have become my favourite. Well developed characters, good humour and a lot of wit, quiet wisdom and philosophy are contained in this beautifully written series. As soon as I finish each book I am anxious for the next. Poor little Bertie is approaching his 7th birthday . He longs to be 18 which seems so far away, so he can move to Glasgow and be free from his dreadful,deluded mother, Irene. He would like a jack knife like other boys, but his mother gives him a gender neutral doll instead, which will cause his classmates to torment him. His horrid mother has disappeared in a humorous manner with even more hilarious results. This finally gives Bertie some joy in his life, some adventure camping, pizza and a picnic with his father. One can only hope Irene is unable to return any time soon. Angus and Domenica have returned from their honeymoon, but two annoying guests are imposing on their home, hospitality and patience. Pat is in love with a nice young man, and her father may also be in love with a woman not so nice. Big Lou has taken on a new challenge. The triplets' au pair now has an opinionated au pair of her own to help with the youngsters. The narcissistic Bruce may have found a girl friend he deserves. A witty, easy, cosy enjoyable read with old friends at 44 Scotland Street.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    An eagerly anticipated book, the next instalment in the marvellous 44 Scotland Street series, did not disappoint in any way. I adore these books, the style of writing and the characters therein. The whimsical observations of everyday life are beautifully transposed into entertaining, moving and sometimes gripping stories. I know the characters so intimately now that I'm convinced they exist! The central story in this book is Bertie's seventh birthday party, yet in the background we have his moth An eagerly anticipated book, the next instalment in the marvellous 44 Scotland Street series, did not disappoint in any way. I adore these books, the style of writing and the characters therein. The whimsical observations of everyday life are beautifully transposed into entertaining, moving and sometimes gripping stories. I know the characters so intimately now that I'm convinced they exist! The central story in this book is Bertie's seventh birthday party, yet in the background we have his mother taking a rather fateful trip to Dubai, whilst "upstairs" the newly wed Angus and Domenica are visited by Antonia and a lovely new character, a "wise nun". In between there's a very funny episode involving the narcissistic Bruce and a body waxologist! I devoured most of this book over two plane journeys - and as we were about to disembark, the man next to me commented that I must have really been enjoying that book. He had seen my expressions of joyful connection and heard the occasional laugh. Only the author's Number One Ladies Detective Agency series excel in reading pleasure for me. If you haven't experienced this series, then it's time to start!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    The Scotland Street series are weird in the sense that every single time I start to read one of them, I ask myself: "Why exactly am I doing this?", or to be more precise: "What was it that I liked about those books?" Because they are slow paced and trivial. They are also good-natured and kind (and obviously there is a lot of Scotland in them) but is that really enough? But once you get going, the book draws you into it and you remember that you also read them because they are soothing and percep The Scotland Street series are weird in the sense that every single time I start to read one of them, I ask myself: "Why exactly am I doing this?", or to be more precise: "What was it that I liked about those books?" Because they are slow paced and trivial. They are also good-natured and kind (and obviously there is a lot of Scotland in them) but is that really enough? But once you get going, the book draws you into it and you remember that you also read them because they are soothing and perceptive and humorous, they flow quietly along and make you feel as if you've had a satisfying snooze and woken up all rested and with a smile on your face. In this particular book one of the characters said something that reads a bit like a manifesto for the series: "Even an apparently dull story can be fascinating," he said. "The tiny details - the tedious things - have a certain grandeur to them, I find. And they also reveal the reasons for why we are what we are. So nothing is really unimportant."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Like a good laugh, jumbo helpings of humor, and the kindness and care of a myriad of unusual and not so unusual characters? Then give yourself giant helpings of Alexander McCall Smith, and especially this delicious installment of his 44 Scotland Street apartment people. Meet Bertie, turning 7, and under the thumb of his helicopter mom, who crowds his afternoons with all the usual ‘activities’ some modern parents force on their kids – that overprotective mom – who took away one of Bertie’s gifts – Like a good laugh, jumbo helpings of humor, and the kindness and care of a myriad of unusual and not so unusual characters? Then give yourself giant helpings of Alexander McCall Smith, and especially this delicious installment of his 44 Scotland Street apartment people. Meet Bertie, turning 7, and under the thumb of his helicopter mom, who crowds his afternoons with all the usual ‘activities’ some modern parents force on their kids – that overprotective mom – who took away one of Bertie’s gifts – a Swiss Army Knife. Meet Cyril, a smart dog who loves his Guinness, and Archie his owner, who his new wife says he’s been sleepwalking. And then there’s Elspeth, ‘blessed’ with triplets, and who gets an au pair for her au pair, to her husband’s dismay. The apartment building's brimming over with people who might remind you of some of your friends and others who will keep you laughing and grinning till you come to the last page.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    I just love Alexander McCall Smith's style of writing. It's deceptively simple and the key thing is that is is natural. The stories just flow and that is what makes the book a page-turner even though it lacks exploding bombs and lovers' spats and the like. Despite the simple writing, the book addresses a lot of issues in society today and does so without it coming across as too Sociology Class 101 (for example, Dr. MacGregor's post-separation relationship with a much younger women, Irene's attem I just love Alexander McCall Smith's style of writing. It's deceptively simple and the key thing is that is is natural. The stories just flow and that is what makes the book a page-turner even though it lacks exploding bombs and lovers' spats and the like. Despite the simple writing, the book addresses a lot of issues in society today and does so without it coming across as too Sociology Class 101 (for example, Dr. MacGregor's post-separation relationship with a much younger women, Irene's attempt at gender-neutral parenting, Angus and Domenica having to deal with an unwelcome visitor in Antonia etc). I can never get enough of the philosophical moments as well, spoken, of course, in context. Bertie is one of my favourite characters (It's between him and Cyril actually) and as he got a lot of booktime I was a very happy girl.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    What fun! I'm so glad that I came back to this series and have now caught up and will wait anxiously for the next book. I enjoy McCall Smith's writer's brain so much. Who else could go along writing everyday thoughts and everyday life, in Edinburgh, dipping here, there, and everywhere into this person and that's life. Then we suddenly have the most implausible, and VERY funny little plot twists thrown at us, from out of nowhere. This is not a criticism. These are the best parts of the books. I j What fun! I'm so glad that I came back to this series and have now caught up and will wait anxiously for the next book. I enjoy McCall Smith's writer's brain so much. Who else could go along writing everyday thoughts and everyday life, in Edinburgh, dipping here, there, and everywhere into this person and that's life. Then we suddenly have the most implausible, and VERY funny little plot twists thrown at us, from out of nowhere. This is not a criticism. These are the best parts of the books. I just don't know how he comes up with them. I am in awe. I would give more detail but then I would have to warn of spoilers. So I will just say that it was so satisfying to see Bertie have some fun, and finally progress to the great old age of seven!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Correen

    McCall Smith was philosophical in this book which is probably why it was not published in the U.S. The format was somewhat choppy with parallel stories that did not blend well. I still found it a wonderful read. Perhaps I was in the mood for a slow moving thoughtful, yet simply written book -- I read it while recovering from a back injury. Bertie is a delightful character -- I would prefer entire books centered on him much as happens in the Botswana series with Precious. Bertie turns seven and i McCall Smith was philosophical in this book which is probably why it was not published in the U.S. The format was somewhat choppy with parallel stories that did not blend well. I still found it a wonderful read. Perhaps I was in the mood for a slow moving thoughtful, yet simply written book -- I read it while recovering from a back injury. Bertie is a delightful character -- I would prefer entire books centered on him much as happens in the Botswana series with Precious. Bertie turns seven and is thoughtful, philosophical, and utterly charming in this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Penny McGill

    Bertie, Bertie, Bertie. The world stops for a chance to spend some time with this little boy. I agree with little Bertie that it seems like it took so long for him to reach his next birthday but I don't really mind. I feel about Bertie like I do about my own children and their birthdays - we want them to age, reach the next special moment in their lives, have new friends - but do they have to get old so fast? Slow down. Let's savour it all. I really want Bertie to stay just as he is so I can enj Bertie, Bertie, Bertie. The world stops for a chance to spend some time with this little boy. I agree with little Bertie that it seems like it took so long for him to reach his next birthday but I don't really mind. I feel about Bertie like I do about my own children and their birthdays - we want them to age, reach the next special moment in their lives, have new friends - but do they have to get old so fast? Slow down. Let's savour it all. I really want Bertie to stay just as he is so I can enjoy him for longer (even as I know he wants to get to the magic year 18 as soon as he can - and escape from his mother's control) but I know this is cruel to him and likely Alexander McCall Smith as he needs to allow their lives to evolve. So, I am resigned to Bertie's aging and enjoyed this visit with. I am always rooting for him and his father Stuart, perhaps even Ulysses now also, and thought the little joys they were allowed in this book particularly sweet for them and for all of us. Can't elaborate much because this is the kind of book you need to experience without any hint of what may happen. You need to hunker down with a tea and love that Alexander McCall Smith can surprise us all with the most unusual twists of fate that happen to the friends on Scotland Street and know that sometimes the balance brings them happiness and other times it really does not. I enjoy the taste of wondering who will be featured in any chapter. I love them all so much - even Bruce - and lament the ones who are missing, like Lard O'Connor as if they were neighbours in my own town. I am never disappointed by a trip into this part of Edinburgh. I'd have a break with Big Lou and swing by Matthew's gallery. In the meantime I'll just re-read the book. I have it for one more week!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Magill

    A distinct improvement from the last several 44 Scotland Street novels - for Bertie anyway. Fingers crossed about his mother, for Ulysses sake as well. In addition, there was a little of Big Lou and Pat, a smidge of Matthew, even less of Elspeth, an oddity of Bruce, new exposure to Pat's father, a peculiar digression with the nudists, and finally Angus and Dominica as the delivery system for Antonia. Bertie is FINALLY 7, poor little mite, but very little else really. Pleasant read but so little to A distinct improvement from the last several 44 Scotland Street novels - for Bertie anyway. Fingers crossed about his mother, for Ulysses sake as well. In addition, there was a little of Big Lou and Pat, a smidge of Matthew, even less of Elspeth, an oddity of Bruce, new exposure to Pat's father, a peculiar digression with the nudists, and finally Angus and Dominica as the delivery system for Antonia. Bertie is FINALLY 7, poor little mite, but very little else really. Pleasant read but so little to commit to as a reader, it feels like I got to know and see more of the characters when they were a new weekly newspaper event and I know less of them now than then. Oh well, cotton candy for lunch now and again won't kill me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    At long last, justice for my adorable little friend Bertie! This was a wildly different one, I felt, in that it gave some satisfactory conclusions to people whose storylines haven't gone anywhere for a while. But I do wish he'd follow through with some of the wilder elements that seem to be introduced and then dropped . . . DOES Bruce have an identical twin? And what happened to him?! On to the next one to find out! At long last, justice for my adorable little friend Bertie! This was a wildly different one, I felt, in that it gave some satisfactory conclusions to people whose storylines haven't gone anywhere for a while. But I do wish he'd follow through with some of the wilder elements that seem to be introduced and then dropped . . . DOES Bruce have an identical twin? And what happened to him?! On to the next one to find out!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ray LaManna

    Ahhh... the perfect summer reading. I love this entire series about the adventures of Bertie Pollock, his family and friends at 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh. This is so well written... and it offers us so many deep lessons about life-AND it's really funny. Check out especially Sister Maria-Fiore dei Fiori di Mantagna! Ahhh... the perfect summer reading. I love this entire series about the adventures of Bertie Pollock, his family and friends at 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh. This is so well written... and it offers us so many deep lessons about life-AND it's really funny. Check out especially Sister Maria-Fiore dei Fiori di Mantagna!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alison Smith

    As ever: a delight. The 44 Scotland Street series about life in Edinburgh, the residents and everything else, is a gentle and charming story. Highly recommended. for full review go to: http://thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com As ever: a delight. The 44 Scotland Street series about life in Edinburgh, the residents and everything else, is a gentle and charming story. Highly recommended. for full review go to: http://thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peggyzbooksnmusic

    Another enjoyable read in the 44 Scotland Street series.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    Loved this ninth installment in the 44 Scotland Street series. There were some laugh-out-loud moments, such as when Bruce goes to an aesthetician, and even more importantly, some lovely, poignant moments of the importance of human relationships and kindness that brought tears to my eyes with Big Lou and the new chapter in her life, and Bertie with his delightfully named friend, Ranald Braveheart MacPherson. I loved Bertie's birthday party, in particular, and also enjoyed Pat's storyline immensel Loved this ninth installment in the 44 Scotland Street series. There were some laugh-out-loud moments, such as when Bruce goes to an aesthetician, and even more importantly, some lovely, poignant moments of the importance of human relationships and kindness that brought tears to my eyes with Big Lou and the new chapter in her life, and Bertie with his delightfully named friend, Ranald Braveheart MacPherson. I loved Bertie's birthday party, in particular, and also enjoyed Pat's storyline immensely. Antonia returns for some delightful passive-aggressive interactions with Domenica. And, once again, something almost improbable happens to Irene (I almost felt sorry for her, but then her attitude reminded me of why I loathe her), and I really wish she would stay where she is this time! Love it all and love Alexander McCall Smith's deeply human musings on life and what makes a good person.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Egbert

    I have to give it four stars because Bertie has been freed from the clutches of his nightmare of a mother for a least a few long weeks and I am so pleased for him! Also, Bertie FINALLY turned seven. So much joy for one of my favourite wee characters in this installment. This series just makes me smile.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Lloyd

    The tales of the residents of 44 Scotland Street, a fictional Georgian apartment block in a respectable part of Edinburgh, were first written as a daily column in the Scotsman and this style of short chapters concentrating on one character at a time is still adhered to in the ninth book of the series, Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers. McCall Smith’s wit and observation of the anxieties and foibles of middle class Edinburgh residents of the 21st century, echo characters throughout Britain who a The tales of the residents of 44 Scotland Street, a fictional Georgian apartment block in a respectable part of Edinburgh, were first written as a daily column in the Scotsman and this style of short chapters concentrating on one character at a time is still adhered to in the ninth book of the series, Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers. McCall Smith’s wit and observation of the anxieties and foibles of middle class Edinburgh residents of the 21st century, echo characters throughout Britain who are striving for success and happiness in so many foolish ways. There is the pushy, assertive mother Irene, her long suffering civil servant husband Stuart, Bruce, the vain, empty headed estate agent, Domenica, an intellectual lady of taste but little tolerance and who could forget Cyril, the dog with a gold tooth belonging to empathetic artist Angus Lordie. Nearby is Big Lou’s café where some of the residents meet for coffee with insipid Art shop owner Matthew who always makes a loss even with the assistance of Pat, an earnest Art history student. But the real star is Bertie, who in the latest book, finally reaches the grand age of 7. Bertie is a genius in spite of the yoga classes, saxophone and Italian lessons and regular visits to a psychotherapist lessons arranged by his mother. He longs to be 18 when he can leave home to live in Glasgow and do what he wants when he wants. He is sensitive, honest and kind and speaks with the bluntness of an innocent child. I always wonder whether Pat’s father Dr Macgregor is actually Alexander McCall Smith’s alter ego for he is usually an observer of the lives of the others but in Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers he reveals an unexpected aspect of his private life and at last there is a chance that his daughter Pat will find happiness. The humour is often to be found in the most annoying characters, such as Domenica’s erstwhile neighbour Antonia who turns up to stay uninvited bringing with her an Italian nun, Sister Maria Fiore dei Fiore di Montagna. The Sister is apt to speak in aphorisms such as, “The important thing about opera is that it is sung,” which is so unexpected that it makes her the centre of polite Edinburgh society. Matthew’s bête noir is his Danish au pair, Birgitte, who throws away his jar of marmite, his Patum Peperium and half a haggis, on the basis that they are inedible. Much of the conversation is philosophical, amongst a group of people who seem to have so much more time than the rest of us. We quickly come to know and understand the characters through hearing what they believe about life the universe and everything. There is a feeling of ends being tied and characters blossoming in this book and I feel that Bertie will soon be too old to speak pure, unadulterated truth but hopefully I am wrong and there will be more to read about this colourful disparate group of individuals.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Opening a new book in the Scotland Street series is akin to receiving a letter or email from an old friend. I quickly want to know all the news! And it unfolds with customary leisurely grace in Alexander McCall Smith’s character-driven series set in Edinburgh. I find myself giving the book four stars because it is such a light and seemingly inconsequential read -- but it gives such pleasure! I may have to rethink that rating. The big event is that Bertie, who remained steadfastly six years old th Opening a new book in the Scotland Street series is akin to receiving a letter or email from an old friend. I quickly want to know all the news! And it unfolds with customary leisurely grace in Alexander McCall Smith’s character-driven series set in Edinburgh. I find myself giving the book four stars because it is such a light and seemingly inconsequential read -- but it gives such pleasure! I may have to rethink that rating. The big event is that Bertie, who remained steadfastly six years old through eight books, finally has his seventh birthday. I remember childhood in much the same way: a longed-for birthday, granting a small child the grand event of being a year older, always seemed an eternity away. Interactions between Pat and her father were a particularly lively addition this time round, and the people we love to hate – Irene and Bruce – did not fare so well. Each has a hilarious comeuppance that is surely the very definition of schadenfreude. McCall Smith must have been gleeful at his inventions. I know I’d be pleased with myself if I had such an imagination. As usual, McCall Smith also mounted his pulpit and delivered deep thoughts via his characters. Occasionally I wanted to argue back. I rather suspect that Angus Lordie, lovable, philosophical, more than a bit absent-minded, is the author’s alter ego.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elsi

    This book has not yet been released in the US, but I didn't let that stop me. I waited until the audio edition became available in August 2014, then I ordered the CDs from England. I simply wasn't willing to wait any longer. In this newest addition to McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series, Bertie's seventh birthday is finally here. But to his horror, his mother has totally spoiled it by giving him a gender-neutral "play figure"—which everyone except Irene recognizes as a doll—setting Bertie up This book has not yet been released in the US, but I didn't let that stop me. I waited until the audio edition became available in August 2014, then I ordered the CDs from England. I simply wasn't willing to wait any longer. In this newest addition to McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series, Bertie's seventh birthday is finally here. But to his horror, his mother has totally spoiled it by giving him a gender-neutral "play figure"—which everyone except Irene recognizes as a doll—setting Bertie up for the to-be-expected torment by Olive. The rest of the cast is present: Matthew and Elspeth are barely coping with their triplets (and the au pair); Angus and Dominica are settling into domesticity; Bruce visits a waxologist; and we are introduced to a fascinating new character, Sister Maria-Fiore dei Fiori di Montagna. David Rintoul's excellent reading of Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers brought all the characters to life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's not the very best in the series, but it holds its own. And, since it ended with at least one thread dangling, I'm confident there'll be yet another episode in a year or so.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I'm in the habit of picking up a book that is part of a series and not knowing it! That happened with this book. Apparently this is the 9th installment of the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. I had read a few of his other books (parts of other series, no less) and randomly picked this up at the library. I highly recommend it for light, cheerful reading. Much of the reading I do is either heavy duty historical stuff for my job, or suspense/thriller (e.g., Gone Girl). This is n I'm in the habit of picking up a book that is part of a series and not knowing it! That happened with this book. Apparently this is the 9th installment of the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. I had read a few of his other books (parts of other series, no less) and randomly picked this up at the library. I highly recommend it for light, cheerful reading. Much of the reading I do is either heavy duty historical stuff for my job, or suspense/thriller (e.g., Gone Girl). This is nothing like those other genres. This particular story is told almost exclusively from the viewpoint of an almost 7 year old boy (he turns seven at the end of the book), Bertie. Bertie has an overprotective, smothering mother and an affable, but emasculated father. Bertie's mother, Irene, is detained in Dubai (a trip she won) and this forces Bertie and his father (and baby Ulysses) to take care of themselves. On their own, Bertie and his father discover a lot about each other and Bertie is able to experience some of the "boy" things that his mother has prohibited. This is a cute, harmless story that is both funny and entertaining; a great break from heavy books!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Delightfully entertaining as always. Alexander McCall Smith never fails to deliver sparkling wit and everyday lives made more when we are allowed access to their inner thoughts. In the episode of the 44 Scotland Street series Bertie is excited to be turning 7 and wishing for a birthday party. Bertie's mother Irene, a poster woman for progressive parenting, micro-manages her son's every moment until she experiences an outlandish adventure of her own. Angus Lordie's new wife reveals a surprising con Delightfully entertaining as always. Alexander McCall Smith never fails to deliver sparkling wit and everyday lives made more when we are allowed access to their inner thoughts. In the episode of the 44 Scotland Street series Bertie is excited to be turning 7 and wishing for a birthday party. Bertie's mother Irene, a poster woman for progressive parenting, micro-manages her son's every moment until she experiences an outlandish adventure of her own. Angus Lordie's new wife reveals a surprising condition to the painter who travels with his dog Cyril of the gold tooth. Pat meets a special someone while discovering that her father is in a similar frame of mind. Parents of triplets, Matthew and Elspeth hire an au pair for their au pair. And, a visiting nun from Italy makes her mark in Edinburgh society. I admire this prolific author's versatility and good humour and will continue to feast on his works.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anne Hawn Smith

    I love this series and this book is one of the best. Bertie is wonderful. He's turning 7 and he can't wait, but his birthday is fraught with dangers when you factor in his mother. Dominica and Angus are beginning to work out their new relationship now that they are married, and Big Lou, in an unusual way, finally gets someone who will love her and whom she can lavish all her love on. These characters seem like friends and I thoroughly enjoyed getting an update on their lives. There are some surpr I love this series and this book is one of the best. Bertie is wonderful. He's turning 7 and he can't wait, but his birthday is fraught with dangers when you factor in his mother. Dominica and Angus are beginning to work out their new relationship now that they are married, and Big Lou, in an unusual way, finally gets someone who will love her and whom she can lavish all her love on. These characters seem like friends and I thoroughly enjoyed getting an update on their lives. There are some surprises in this book. For one thing, Bertie finally gets a little relief in a most interesting way. He is one of the best characters AMS has conceived of and he feels very real to me. He's just trying to tread water and keep his head above the waves of his mother's plans for him. Every time he manages it feels like a personal victory.

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