The World According To Bertie, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Poor put-upon Bertie is still struggling to escape his overbearing mother's influence, his yoga lessons and his pink bedroom while wondering why new baby brother Ulysses looks uncomfortably like his psychotherapist.

The insufferably handsome Bruce has returned from London to land, on his feet and rent-free, in the arms of heiress Julia Donald.

But all is not well among the residents of 44 Scotland Street: Angus's dog and constant companion Cyril is under threat of execution, victim of a miscarriage of justice, while pretty, indecisive Pat and hopeless romantic Matthew are on the verge of making the most terrible mistake of their lives . . . Big Lou finds a new man, Matthew and Pat edge their relationship towards something more permanent - although this development is not without complications, when a glimpse of someone who just might be her handsome, caddish ex-flatmate Bruce sets Pat's pulse racing - and Domenica's friendship with Antonia is tested to the limit when an assortment of her belongings mysteriously appear in Antonia's new flat.


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Review by

Alexander McCall Smith books are always a delight, and I tend to treat them a bit like boxes of chocolates, as things to be stashed away until a suitable occasion for self-indulgence, such as an illness or a tedious journey. This one kept me chuckling merrily through a couple of hours at Manchester Airport and a KLM flight, events which probably qualify on both counts...This is the fourth novel to come out of McCall Smith's <i>44 Scotland Street</i> serial. It's a bit more introspective and character-based than the earlier instalments. Things do happen, but they have oddly inverted levels of significance - the mislaying of a baby is less important to the story than the possible theft of a teacup; marriage proposals accepted and rejected do little to ruffle the even tenor of Edinburgh life (one wonders how Inspector Rebus ever finds any crimes to solve in such a tranquil place...). The serial form is very evident - McCall Smith wanders off from time to time into discussions of new books or abstract philosophical ideas, or puts in little nods to other Edinburgh citizens (presumably friends and acquaintances). It may well be the discipline of writing the stories as a serial that keep his gentle ironic tone fresh and interesting, even when the characters aren't doing very much except sitting around thinking.

Review by

I've really enjoyed the 44 Scotland Street series so far, and was impressed overall with this fourth installment as well. There were a couple of disappointments. Child prodigy Bertie and his horrifically pushy mother Irene have always been the stand out characters and judging from the title I'd hoped they would have a more prominent role. Their storyline was particularly entertaining this time though, with Irene finding a mini-me in Bertie's awful classmate Olive.The other characters vary in how far they've developed. Pat, who was promising in the first novel, is increasingly bland. Smith doesn't seem to know what to do with her and is just recycling old material. Happily, her shy boss/friend/boyfriend Matthew, who used to be in the background and who I always liked, is now being given more attention and getting more rounded. Domenica's 'frenemy' relationship with her neighbour Antonia was another strong point, with some very amusing scenes centred on their strained meetings. I was unsure about the return of Bruce - I definitely didn't miss him in the previous book - but his egotism and complete lack of morality provided some excellent moments this time. Angus's mournful chapters seemed to drag, and I hope he gets a happier and more interesting plot next time. Of course, as you can see from my reactions, Alexander McCall Smith's real strong point is getting you involved in the lives of characters who seem like real people. Although very little happens in the Scotland Street stories (except a lot of talking and thinking) and I often wish the plot would move faster, I'm always eager to read the next chapter. I suppose that's an indication of Smith's skill in writing the original serialised newspaper story, and the eagerness to continue reading doesn't end on the final page. There were lots of interesting leads at the end of the book and I'm really looking forward to reading number 5. PLEASE let Irene fall on her face!

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