The importance of being seven

Alexander McCall Smith, 1948-

Book - 2012

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McCall Smith, Alexander, 1948- 44 Scotland Street series.
New York : Anchor Books 2012.
1st Anchor Books ed
Item Description
Originally published: Edinburgh : Polygon, 2010.
Physical Description
311 p. : ill. ; 21 cm
Main Author
Alexander McCall Smith, 1948- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Becoming seven is of aching importance to Bertie Pollock, who has been an unhappy six-year-old in the five previous 44 Scotland Street novels. To Bertie, whose mother seems to see him as more of a product than an actual child, the age of seven seems to offer so much more freedom than six ever has. Bertie, who performs an endless round of self-improvement exercises, has a loving but timid father and a baby brother, Ulysses, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Bertie's former psychotherapist. The maternally overmanaged Pollock family occupies one flat on 44 Scotland Street in the New Town neighborhood of Edinburgh. Fans of the series (which McCall Smith conducts in daily installments in the Scotsman before book publication) will rejoice at hearing again some of the familiar treads on the fashionable tenement's stairs. Returning are residents of Scotland Street including the cultural anthropologist Domenica Macdonald, who lives just upstairs of the Pollocks; visitors to Scotland Street, like the portrait artist Angus Lordie; and some former Scotland Street residents, including the young woman, Pat Macgregor, who once lived in the same flat as the narcissist Bruce Anderson, whose beauty forces admiration from all women, some men, and always himself, sometimes at great cost. By following an assemblage of characters on and near 44 Scotland Street, McCall Smith manages sidesplitting send-ups of contemporary pretentiousness and wry and often poignant commentary on the roles of chance, cruelty, and fate in our lives. The whole production, unlike Bertie's hothouse childhood, is delightful. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: McCall Smith's Ladies Detective Agency series has long been his most popular, but the Scotland-set novels are hot on Mmm Precious Ramotse's formidable tail. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

With the arrival of the sixth novel (after Bertie Plays the Blues) in his 44 Scotland Street series, McCall Smith again shows his mastery of light comedy. The residents of 44 Scotland Street are quickly introduced: art dealer Matthew and his new bride, Elspeth; Irene Pollock, husband Stuart, precocious son Bertie, and pretentiously named baby Ulysses; painter Angus Lordie (and his faithful, heroic dog, Cyril); the "private scholar" and freelance anthropologist Domenica Macdonald; plus other, minor characters, notably the philosophizing cafe proprietress Big Lou. The plot lines are many: Elspeth's pregnancy; Angus and Domenica might be falling in love; and Bertie, approaching the titular important age, needs to feel like a boy, though his monstrous but well-meaning mother is too busy introducing him to the poetry of W.H. Auden and creating Oedipal issues. McCall's brilliance lies in his ability to juggle so much in a way that feels seamless, even if the narrative arcs themselves tend to the fanciful. The drama may be slight, but what pulls the reader in is the good natures of (almost) all the characters and McCall's uncanny ability to see their world as they do, and to render their worries, pleasures, and musings with charm, grace, and geniality. Agent: Robin Straus. (Sept.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Approaching his seventh birthday after writing five books, young Bertie learns an unfortunate lesson about the dangers of wish-fulfillment, while Angus and Domenica contemplate a vacation romance in Italy and Big Lou evaluates the merits of cosmetic surgery. Reprint. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Approaching his seventh birthday after writing five books, young Bertie learns a lesson about the dangers of wish-fulfillment, while Angus and Domenica contemplate a vacation romance, and Big Lou evaluates the merits of cosmetic surgery.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

44 SCOTLAND STREET - Book 6The residents and neighbors of 44 Scotland Street and the city of Edinburgh come to vivid life in these gently satirical, wonderfully perceptive serial novels, featuring six-year-old Bertie, a remarkably precocious boy—just ask his mother.   The great city of Edinburgh is renowned for its impeccable restraint, so how, then, did the extended family of 44 Scotland Street come to be trembling on the brink of reckless self-indulgence? After seven years and five books, Bertie is—finally!—about to turn seven. But one afternoon he mislays his meddling mother Irene, and learns a valuable lesson: wish-fulfillment can be a dangerous business. Angus and Domenica contemplate whether to give in to romance on holiday in Italy, and even usually down-to-earth Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery. Funny, warm, and heartfelt as ever, The Importance of Being Seven offers fresh and wise insights into philosophy and fraternity among Edinburgh's most lovable residents.