Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers – Alexander McCall Smith

A new Scotland Street novel is always a treat even though I race through them in a day & then have to wait a year for the next instalment.

Bertie’s seventh birthday is finally approaching & he’s very excited – if only his mother, Irene, didn’t insist that he invite as many girls as boys to his birthday party. He would also love a penknife as a special birthday present from his parents but he knows that he’ll receive something non-violent & gender neutral instead. Art gallery owner Matthew & his wife, Elspeth are still getting used to being the parents of triplets. They decide that their wonderful Danish au pair, Anna, needs an assistant au pair but their choice isn’t a complete success.

Angus Lordie, newly married to Domenica, has started sleepwalking & is encouraged by Domenica to see a psychiatrist. They also have a fascinating conversation about the order in which we think of the names of our married friends. Domenica feels that the order of the names is important & Angus is quite sure that everyone thinks of them as Domenica & Angus rather than the other way around. When their friend, Antonia, writes from her convent in Tuscany to invite herself to stay for a few weeks while she finishes writing her book on early Scottish saints, Domenica analyses every phrase of her letter in great detail. Antonia arrives accompanied by a nun from the convent, Sister Maria-Fiore, who has a talent for stating the obvious. The unfortunate affair of the blue Spode cup has not been forgotten by Antonia & causes some uncomfortable moments for Angus & Domenica.

Pat McGregor’s love life seems to be improving when she meets an attractive young cabinet maker but their first date at a local bar becomes an embarrassment when Pat’s father arrives accompanied by a very odd woman. Coffee shop owner Big Lou is always unlucky in love but decides that although her romantic relationships have been disastrous, she has a lot of room in her heart & in her life & becomes foster mother to young Finlay.

Irene Pollock wins a trip to a literary festival Dubai in a competition & Bertie & Stuart are eager for her to go. The trip doesn’t turn out quite as Irene expected although Bertie & his father, while concerned for Irene’s safety, settle down to enjoy their unexpected freedom.

As always, there are some very funny moments in this book as well as some poignant ones. McCall Smith’s gentle humour & sense of the absurd is ever present & it’s always a joy to catch up with the residents of Scotland Street.

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