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The Unbearable Lightness of Scones: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (5) Paperback – January 12, 2010


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The Unbearable Lightness of Scones: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (5) + The World According to Bertie: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (4) + The Importance of Being Seven: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (6)
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Product Details

  • Series: 44 Scotland Street
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307454703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307454706
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fans of bestseller Smith's two mystery series set in Botswana and Edinburgh will find the same understanding, affectionate look at human frailties and foibles in this sunny series about the adventures and misadventures of a precocious six-year-old, Bertie Pollock, and a host of other folks in contemporary Edinburgh. In the superlative fifth entry (after The World According to Bertie), Bertie's parents engage in a Wodehousian power struggle about how their young child should be raised, wondering whether his desire to become a scout is a good thing. The neatly interwoven story lines include the travails of a young, newly married couple and an artist who finds himself saddled with too many dogs. One character's scheme to recover a Spode tea cup that her neighbor has permanently appropriated is particularly evocative of P.G. Wodehouse, though Smith's characters are less broadly drawn and more multidimensional than, say, Jeeves and Wooster. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* There’s much ado at Edinburgh’s 44 Scotland Street, the fictional residence in McCall Smith’s whimsical series. This fifth installment (after The World according to Bertie, 2008) finds more angst for six-year-old genius Bertie, who desperately wants to join the Cub Scouts. Irene, his excruciatingly overbearing mother, dismisses such desires as uncivilized. (Aren’t the young lad’s yoga and Italian lessons stimulating enough?) Meanwhile, milquetoast gallery-owner Matthew brushes with death while on honeymoon in Australia, vain and vacuous Bruce ponders a plum modeling assignment, and lonely intellectual Domenica suspects her neighbor Antonia of dealing drugs. (The woman did steal a blue Spode teacup after all; could more dire crimes be far behind?) Domenica and portrait painter Angus Lordie consider ways to expose Antonia’s illegal activities, while Angus’ perceptive canine Cyril looks on. (Cyril has been engaged in some roguish behavior of his own, fathering a litter of six playful pups.) In the book’s preface, McCall Smith wryly insists that his tale is “entirely true, or almost.” While the actual Scotland Street doesn’t quite reach 44, one can easily imagine the likes of Bertie wearily marching off to the psychiatrist, Bruce preening before every available mirror, and Cyril epitomizing the old adage about man’s best friend. Who wouldn’t want to live among this endlessly lively crew? --Allison Block

Customer Reviews

I am look forward to reading the next installment.
Margaret Johnson
The 44 Scotland Street series is my favorite of Alexander McCall Smith's wonderful worlds.
connie nelson
Highly recommended for a good read, or book club discussion.
Sheila May

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whimsy reaches new heights in McCall-Smith's latest installment of the "44 Scotland Street" series. If you are a fan of this author (I am), you'll enjoy this one as much as its predecessors. From the title to the poetic ending, human foibles, animal wisdom, the precarious condition of childhood, and the charms of Scotland are examined in detail through McCall-Smith's kaleidoscopic lens.

The trials and tributations of six-year old Bertie Pollock continue as he joins the Cub Scouts and his nutcase, yuppy mother seethes on the sidelines. Some darker issues are brewing for the Pollock family and that doubtless will appear in future installments. The narcissistic Bruce Anderson is back in Edinburgh and runs a gauntlet of come-upnesses until personal redemption is found through moisterizer. (Don't ask).

Angus Lordie, painter of portraits, and his faithful and patient dog, Cyril, have star billing in "The Unbearable..." and take on some vexing moral issues. These involve the possible theft of an important painting, the actual theft of a teacup and whether to bite the ankles of a friend. SPOILER--dog lovers may be very disappointed by McCall-Smith's cavalier treatment of a dilemma involving six puppies that Cyril has helped to spawn.

The long and the short of it is that "The Unbearable Lightness of Scones" is a very amusing ramble through the lives of some of McCall-Smith's funniest characters where he wields a rather sharp ironic scalpel at times. Be prepared to laugh out loud and to inflict readings of the funniest lines on the person sitting closest to you at the moment.

Great fun and recommended.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Isch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is volume 5 of a serial novel that began life in the "Scotsman" newspaper. Please don't start reading it until you've read the previous four volumes. They are, in order: "44 Scotland Street," "Espresso Tales," "Love Over Scotland, " and "The World According to Bertie."

Now that I'm speaking only to the choir, I should assure you that all the series regulars are back except for Pat, who, as you'll recall, left Edinburgh in the previous installment to move back home with her family. So what else is new? Here are a few things to whet your reading appetite:

1. A new psychotherapist arrives on the scene and his first reaction to Irene and Bertie is that the poor boy doesn't have a mother, he has a personal trainer. Will the new shrink set Bertie free?
2. Did you know that when Scotsmen get together they talk about the merits of moisturizers? Me neither, but they do here.
3. Somebody dies.
4. Somebody else almost dies but is saved by a nonhuman.
5. A major character fathers sextuplets.
6. A key character undergoes a major transformation.
7. A famous real-life Edinburgh writer gets shot and Bertie knows whodunnit.

Will there be a volume 6? Will Angus Lordie's closing poem lead to something McCall Smith's been hinting at all along? Will the puppies be okay? I don't know. I hope so, as I suspect you will too.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Steele Agosta on August 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read all the other books in this series, but The Unbearable Lightness of Scones just didn't hold up for me. Although even in the previous books, so many of the story lines tend to build excitement and then die away into non-events, this episode seemed to do that even more quickly. But mostly, the storyline with Bertie just has worn me out. He was my favorite character but now his storyline has turned into a case of watching someone be slowly tortured to death. It's not funny any more. Unless Irene begins to get some come-uppance, I just can't keep reading. The book depressed me.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
In Edinburgh six years old Bertie Pollock needs to escape the war between his parents over how to raise their kid. He would like to give them pointers but they are too obtuse with adult power to listen to their child. Instead he decides the cub scouts might be the perfect escape especially from his mom as Irene is stifling (not that he wants to go camping in the woods). Neither of his parents are fond of the idea that their darling wants to join the scouts; for that matter neither is Bertie.

Meanwhile Cyril the canine has fallen in lust leaving his pet human artist Angus Lordie with six issues to deal with. Newly married Matthew adapts to life with a live in partner as does his wife Elspeth who has no idea how men behave. Finally lonely Domenica remains isolated with in many ways only his intellectual self and Cyril and his new horde to talk with while mumbling that his dog is scoring better than he ever has. As always a torrent in a teacup confront the occupants at of 44 Scotland Street

This is a terrific slice of Edinburgh as the readers learn more of The World According to Bertie and other residents of 44 Scotland Street. The characters are extremely deep yet cleverly understated. Their wonderful profound stories intertwine into a "Precious" tale as Alexander McCall Smith showcases his Love Over Scotland as much as he has Botswana.

Harriet Klausner
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Promise on April 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
If you are a fan of Alexander McCall Smith's other books, you'll probably love this. I'm not, and although I found some sweet moments as well as a group of interesting characters, I can't recommend it to someone who wants something of more substance in their reading material than topics like moisturizer. I listened on audio books which helped to pass many hours of commuting. I don't think I could bear to read it. It is harmless, though, and there is a nice glimpse into contemporary Scottish life.

The author is good at creating some memorable characters. Bertie Pollack is a sweetheart who suffers from an unbearably overbearing mother. But it's very hard to believe that a six year old would have the insights that spring from Bertie's mind. Angus, a painter who favors his father's voluminous old green Harris tweed suit over skimpy modern suits, is another winning character. Others are less interesting--Matthew who nearly drowns on his honeymoon has such a lack of personality that one wonders why he takes up space in the novel at all. Domenica and Antonia seem to be interchangeable and neither one is very interesting or agreeable. Then there is Bruce, an extreme egotist who undergoes a radical transformation which is highly unbelievable.

If you overlook these things and are in the mood for a slow moving, talky, not-too-challenging, pleasant meander through McCall Smith's version of Edinburgh, you may enjoy this book.
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More About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

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The Unbearable Lightness of Scones: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (5)
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