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Bertie Plays the Blues. Alexander McCall Smith (44 Scotland Street) Paperback – May 1, 2012
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*Starred Review* Bertie is a six-and-a-half-year-old boy in Edinburgh who is so unhappy with his mother-driven schedule of yoga, Italian lessons, and a weekly visit to a psychotherapist that he puts himself up for adoption on eBay. He lives with his well-meaning but weak father and domineering mother in a well-appointed but loveless flat on Scotland Street. This upscale apartment building, the setting for McCall Smith’s Scotland Street series, also houses a cultural anthropologist, soon to marry a portrait painter, and it used to hold the gels, ointments, mirrors, and wardrobe used by Bruce, the beyond-handsome narcissist who fascinates the art student Pat (McCall Smith says it’s like a cobra fascinating a mouse). The prolific McCall Smith, who also produces the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and the Corduroy Mansions series, writes the Scotland Street novels in serial form for The Scotsman, appearing daily several months a year. He moves from vignette to vignette within the flat and in greater Edinburgh, always moving his characters’ fates forward bit by bit, meeting in the apartment house hallway by meeting at Big Lou’s café or meeting at the wine bar. The plotlines, now spanning seven novels, are devilishly clever, but readers may well value even more McCall Smith’s wit and his characters’ conversations and reflections on happiness, loneliness, and love. Often droll, often touching, the Scotland Street stories are always delightful to read. --Connie Fletcher
Praise for the 44 Scotland Street series: 'A joyous, charming portrait of city life and human foibles' Sunday Express
Top customer reviews
Having just read the previous book, it was disconcerting that the author changed the facts about assistants at the gallery, though with very little impact on the action.
Stewart joined a lodge behind Irene's back, but Bertie's inability to lie brought the truth out in the open. By the end of the book Irene began to reevaluate her parenting style after Bertie ran away to be adopted like his friend Ranald.
The author continued to make the weak but kind Matthew be ineffectual in his life, making a stupid decision with his inherited money. One wants to like him but his actions make one despair of him as he starts his life as a father of 3. His wife normally keeps him from acting too stupid, but in her postpartum depression and tiredness, she initiates a silly move that results in his showing his ineptitude while trying to be a good husband.
As with other books in the series it doesn't really stand alone if one wants to enjoy the development of the characters and action. This book does have some real movement and ends with a forthcoming wedding and possible new love for Big Lou.
It is a worthy successor to previous volumes and has more action than some of its predecessors.