I’ve not had a good track record with any of McCall Smith’s books apart from the Mma Ramotswe series but I thought I’d give it another go!
The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith
This is the fourth of the 44 Scotland Street series that McCall Smith has written about the inhabitants of a street in Edinburgh. Bertie is a 6 year old boy who, according to the author’s preface, has remained six throughout the series despite the others around him getting older(!)
Bertie’s troubles centre around his very bossy mother Irene and some of his irksome childhood companions who have names like Tofu and Olive. Irene is influenced by Melanie Klein and drives poor Bertie to distraction as he isn’t allowed to have a normal boy’s childhood. He has a pink bedroom and has to go to psychotherapy and is forced to play with Olive who is a bit scheming and sly so it always looks like it is Bertie’s fault. Bertie’s troubles don’t end there as Irene has not long given birth to another child, Ulysses, and immediately Bertie suggest that they could put Ulysses up for adoption as he knows there is a shortage of babies for adoption. Interestingly enough, Bertie notices that the baby has similar features to his psychotherapist Dr Fairbarn.
It isn’t just Bertie whose life is interesting as Angus Lordie, a painter, is bereft of inspiration because his gold-toothed dog, Cyril, has been impounded being falsely accused of biting someone.
Matthew is a wealthy gallery owner who really only dabbles. He is independently wealthy and employs student Pat to look after the gallery on part-time basis. He and Pat are going out but it doesn’t seem like a love-match or passionate relationship.
There is the very big and selfish, Bruce, whose purpose in life is to drift in and out of things that suit him. He is back in Edinburgh again flat-hunting after a stint in London and is looking for a cushy number he can take advantage of.
Big Lou is a cafe-owner who has trouble finding a suitable man and starts seeing someone who is part of a group of Jacobites(!) who believe they have found the descendant of Bonnie Prince Charlie (!)
There are other characters like Domenica, the anthropologist, and her friend Antonia, the would-be writer who I could mention but they are so numerous it would spoil the book.
I didn’t like the Scotland Street series originally but having read this volume, I have started to warm to the style of writing as it is a set of newspaper columns and I can see how they fit together as such. I don’t think I’d be adverse to reading another of the Scotland Street books.
Sirius’s only thoughts on Scotland are for his auntie D who he misses and would like to have visit.