The Bertie Project: A 44 Scotland Street Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

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The Bertie Project: A 44 Scotland Street Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Catch up with all your favourite characters (or almost all), and wonder once more if Bertie's entire childhood is destined to be full of nothing but Italian conversation, yoga and psychotherapy...poor Bertie!
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 224 Date: August 2016
Publisher: Polygon
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781846973598

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Catching up with old friends is a pleasure, and it's good to be back on Scotland Street, finding out what everyone is getting up to. Irene is back, of course, from her travels to the middle-east. Bruce has fallen in love, Matthew and Elspeth have triplet troubles, and somebody has an extremely unfortunate accident…

I'm just going to write this review imagining that you already know who I'm talking about. This is book eleven, after all, in the Scotland Street series, so you'd have to be a little crazy to start your journey here! In this book, I had been very hopeful that Irene would never return from the middle-east. That would have made things much easier for Bertie, and his long-suffering dad. Sadly it wasn't to be, and Irene is back causing trouble for everyone. Still, Bertie's grandmother has decided to remain nearby, to help out as much as she is able to, and Bertie begins to wonder if he couldn't just perhaps move in with his grandma. Change may be in the air for Bertie though, as Dr Fairbairn comes back for a visit with Irene, Bertie and Ulysses, who (Bertie declares) still looks remarkably like Dr Fairbairn (much to Irene's horror!) Meanwhile, Bertie's father, Stuart, has been seen having lunch with another woman and whilst Bertie sees nothing untowards in this, Stuart's mother is rather more suspicious. I remain hopeful for dear Bertie, though I am not sure that he will ever escape being the focus of his dreadful mother's life.

Bruce, meanwhile, has fallen in love. He is properly head over heels in love with Clare, a young lady from Australia, who starts to turn Bruce's world, and wardrobe, upside down. I really enjoyed all of our glimpses into Bruce's world in this story. He is normally so terrible that it's a little awkward to read about his misadventures, but it was interesting to see him kowtowing to someone else for a change! Clare is an interesting character as well, and I found all of the stories of her life very funny, making me chuckle throughout the book. Bruce and Clare have an interesting relationship that I thought was well drawn, and I'm intrigued to hear more about her in the future.

I feel I should create some sort of warning that there is an extremely shocking moment in this book! However, I don't want to spoil the story, so I can't say very much about it! How very tricky...I suppose you just need to be forewarned that there will be a part of the book where you may well gasp aloud, and then find that you are desperately turning the pages, wondering what on earth is going to happen to a character we know well and care about greatly. It was certainly an exciting part of the story, and shook things up a little!

The Association of Scottish Nudists are back in the story with more committee machinations. They are not my favourite parts of the story, and I personally would have preferred to hear about Pat, who I missed. Since these books are written with very short chapters, even if there's a part you're not so interested in then it isn't long until you're back with a favourite character again. Indeed, the short chapters work extremely well meaning you can pick them up and put them down easily (reading one or two whilst stirring a pan of curry on the stove, for example!) but you can still binge-read too, when you have longer to read.

There were just a few moments where I felt the story was a little flat, which is unusual for an AMS story. I do love his writing so much, and it always pains me to knock any stars off my reviews of his books! I normally finish the Scotland Street stories feeling disgruntled with Irene, obviously, but happy overall, but this time I found that I felt very sad for Big Lou, very sad for both Bertie and his dad, and even worried about poor Bruce! In spite of Angus and Domenica hosting one of their finale dinners, and Angus reading one of his lovely poems, I found that I closed the book with a slightly dissatisfied sigh. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but I find I have more worries than usual about all of my 'friends', and I'm hoping that things will start looking up for everyone in the next episode.

Further reading suggestion: In case you've lost track of where you are in this series, the previous book to this one is The Revolving Door of Life.

Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street Series in Chronological Order

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Buy The Bertie Project: A 44 Scotland Street Novel by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Bertie Project: A 44 Scotland Street Novel by Alexander McCall Smith at


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