Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review: Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers

Book Cover: Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith
Published February 9, 2014 by Random House, LLC
Audio recording by Isis Publishing Ltd. UK
Source: purchased in September 2014

Alexander McCall Smith's wildly popular 44 Scotland Street series chronicles life in a corner of Edinburgh brimming with wit and humor.

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.

Newlywed painter and sometime somnambulist Angus Lordie might be sleepwalking his way into trouble with Animal Welfare when he lets his dog Cyril drink a bit too much lager at the local bar. The longsuffering Bertie, on the cusp of his seventh birthday party, has taken to dreaming about his eighteenth, a time when he will be able to avoid the indignity of unwanted girl attendees and the looming threat of a gender-neutral doll from his domineering mother Irene. Matthew and Elspeth struggle to care for their triplets, contending with Danish au pairs and dubious dukes to boot, while the narcissistic Bruce faces his greatest challenge yet in the form of an over-eager waxologist. As ever, when Alexander McCall Smith visits 44 Scotland Street, fun is sure to follow.

My Thoughts

Although it was published in 2013 in the UK, Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers 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, and while it's not the very best in the series, 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.


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