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The World According To Bertie (2007)

The World According to Bertie (2007)
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4 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
1846970172 (ISBN13: 9781846970177)
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English
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publisher
polygon
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The World According To Bertie (2007)
The World According To Bertie (2007)

About book: I adore Alexander McCall Smith's style of light-as-a-feather writing, but wished he'd stop using German in his novels. Firstly, because it's rather pretentious and secondly, because the man hasn't the first notion of the German language and always gets it wrong...and to compound his error always neglects to ask a German speaker to correct the foreign language errors in his novels. But that's really the only criticism I have of McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street novels, which are utter gems. Location plays an important part in this author's novels, especially in his 44 Scotland Street escapades, where New Town in Edinburgh, Scotland, serves as the background to philosophical musings about life, love, friendship and freedom.An Author goes Window-shopping McCall Smith uses the City of Edinburg as a location for musings about the human condition, allowing readers a glimpse into the private lives of a set of people living in a particular neighbourhood. They don't necessarily know each other personally, but their lives have a tendency to unexpectedly touch or, at times, even to collide in dramatic or comic fashion. Edinburgh serves to demonstrate the changes Scotland has undergone over the past few centuries, how its people have adapted to change and in turn have changed the world with their innovations.Although the main focus of the story is on the residents of one particular tenement house in Scotland Street, the different districts of Edinburg all play an important role in describing the individual characters of the novel and the nature of what might be called "the Scottish condition". Whenever we learn more about a character or are introduced to a new character, we do so by following them to their favourite haunts in Edinburgh. Here the location is actually a character in the novel, as multi-faceted as any human being.McCall is taking us on a stroll through this wind-swept Scottish city, reminding us of its heroic and foolish moments, holding up a lantern to shine on its grand architecture and its slums alike. Every so often he's window-shopping for poignant moments, peering through the curtains to catch intimate exchanges between Edinburg's citizens. What at first glance appear to be mundane morsels of conversations between lovers, friends, neighbours, customers and coffee shop owners, children at school, or teachers out shopping, are eventually revealed as insightful comments on love and friendship, hope and aspirations, marriage and childhood; even the human psyche comes under scrutiny.All Heroes great and smallJust like vet James Herriot examined the lives of all creatures great and small in the Yorkshire Dales, Alexander McCall Smith includes Edinburg's pets in his examination of the human condition. Pet and pet owner are subjected to a minute examination, exploring their feelings to each other and the nature of their interaction with the rest of the world.The way humans react to other people's pets often give us a valuable clue to a person's real personality. When at the end of the book one of the characters contemplates giving a dog a chance in order to secure the man she fancies, we know that she has finally tapped into the better part of her being, reached into herself and discovered her humanity.Comic GeniusMcCall Smith can be incredibly funny without resorting to obvious jokes. Here we see the residents of Scotland Street react to a shocking miscarriage of justice against one of their canine neighbours. From the way neighbours react to the pet's misfortune, we catch a glimpse behind the mask and get to know these people's true nature. We also see officialdom thwarted, always something that cheers us up, no matter what our nationality.Naturally, plucky terrier Cyril is my favourite character in the book, apart from long-suffering Bertie himself. This time Cyril narrowly escapes the evil clutches of the law, when he is arrested for indiscriminately biting people in the neighbourhood of 44 Scotland Street. It's all a terrible mistake, but Cyril is thrown into prison and put on death row anyway.Cyril is innocent of this particular crime, but as some residents in Scotland Street recall, he did sink his teeth into the ankle of Bertie's despicable mother Irene, a woman who smothers her 6-year-old son and her husband to such an extent, the two males of the Pollock household lead a miserable existence and cannot see themselves ever finding happiness. The funny thing is that Irene is well-meaning, a mother and wife who only wants the best for her family. She believes herself to be tolerant and enlightened, but she is actually devoid of humanity, has no understanding, charity or mercy. Irene is the villain of the piece and all over the world, so McCall Smith tells his readers in the prologue to the follow-up of this novel ("The Importance of Being Seven"), readers are hoping that Bertie will finally turn seven and escape the clutches of his domineering mother, if only for an afternoon!Scotland is a Dog-eat-Dog WorldA mother and wife from hell, Irene seems to have conducted a clandestine affair with Bertie's child psychotherapist, who Bertie believes to be the father of baby Ulysses, Bertie's 4-month-old brother. The scenes where Bertie asks the adults in his small world about the paternity of baby Ulysses are priceless and among the funniest in the book.Bertie's view of the world is explained in a short essay he and his classmates are asked to write by a new teacher. Full of humanity and kindness, Bertie tolerates his mother's nasty nature, taking it as something that must be endured until he is old enough to move away as far as possible from Scotland Street. Miserable at home and at school, Bertie sees the world as one long ordeal, just like most of us do, if we're honest.At the end of the novel the reader cannot help but feel that Cyril the Dog would grin broadly - gold tooth and all - at some of the human peccadilloes that have happened in Scotland Street while he was in prison. He owes his life to Bertie and this reader suspects, Bertie was just returning the favour. Having witnessed his mother being bitten by Cyril must have been a great comfort to the little boy. There is a happy end - really more of a happy beginning - at the end of the novel that allows readers to look forward to McCall Smith's next window-shopping trip in Edinburg. Interestingly, McCall Smith ends the novel with a domestic setting in one of 44 Scotland Street's spacious Georgian flats. We see some of the characters enjoy a harmonious meal together - which is as the world should be, according to Bertie.

The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith is book 4 of the 44 Scotland Street series set in contemporary Edinburgh. Bertie is 6 years old, very intelligent and observant. Poor Bertie is tyrannized by his mother Irene, who insists he play the saxophone, take yoga classes, and continue psychotherapy. He lives with his parents and new baby brother Ulysses in an apartment at 44 Scotland Street. Bertie notices his baby brother’s facial features resemble the psychotherapist’s. Bertie’s observation is NOT welcome to his mother, father, or psychotherapist.Anthropologist Domenica had her friend Antonia flat-sitting Domenica’s apartment at 44 Scotland Street while Domenica was away on field work in the Malacca Straits. On Domenica’s return, she is not happy to discover Antonia is now a neighbor, in a flat of her own at 44 Scotland Street. Pat lives at 44 Scotland Street and works in a nearby art gallery. She is between romantic relationships. When she sees an old flame Bruce is back in town, it puts her in a topsy-turvy frame of mind. She doesn’t want to get hurt again, but he’s so charming…Matthew owns an art gallery. He’s never found a soul mate. He convinces himself that his employee Pat is “the one”. Until, that is, he meets his real true love…Bruce is a cad who lives his life sponging off friends, moving on when they no longer find him charming. He thinks he has found a real “prize” in Julia Donald, a rich heiress, when he moves into her apartment at 44 Scotland Street. Little does he know she considers him a prize catch, too…and her objectives are permanent.Angus Lordie is an artist who adores his dog Cyril. When Cyril is accused of biting and impounded, Angus is distraught. He can’t paint anymore. Leave it to Bertie to know of another dog that does bite…Big Lou owns and operates a coffee shop near 44 Scotland Street. She hails from Arbroath (her Arbroath origins are mentioned in every single book so far in the series!). She thinks she has found the right man, this time. But her boyfriend’s fellow members in a Jacobite society give her pause.44 Scotland Street series is a comical, wry, gentle narrative of quirky personalities and hiccups in relationships, light on action, heavy on introspection. Listening to an audiobook in the series is similar to catching up on gossip with old friends. The book ends with Angus Lordie’s paean to friendship at Domenica’s dinner party.
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Reviews
Jeannie and Louis Rigod
This book is best enjoyed with snuggling down with your favorite drink, soft, but good, reading light, and plenty of time to devote to savoring the essays of daily life of the persons living in Edinburgh, Scotland, near 44 Scotland Street.As the title of the book suggests, this volume is dedicated to Bertie, a six-year old project (Mother's viewpoint.) Bertie wants to be a boy. That's all. Mother sees the world differently. She has him playing the Saxophone, speaking Italian, and doing Yoga. Of course, there is equal time to make him join her at the Psychoanalyst's office. Why the latter? Rebellion to the above and where is Father? Oh, that is the sad part, he is there, but lacking in gumption. And, now there is a new baby brother.Bertie isn't the only subject by any means, we have persons falling in love, and out. Cyril the dog is accused of a crime from which he must be acquitted. Big Lou is still reading her bookstore and Domenica has returned from living with the Pirates.This is a good, solid, comforting read. Try the series.
Auntie Pam
Impossibile non amare Alexander McCall Smith, impossibile non amare il suo stile sempre elegante ed ironico e il suo inglese così fluido e corretto (autore ideale per chi volesse rispolverare il proprio inglese). Questo è il quarto libro della serie e stavolta Scotland Street e paraggi ha come protagonista Bertie, un bambino di sei anni. Bertie è un bambino un po' fuori dal comune, con una mamma che nessuno si augurerebbe per sè e con un'intelligenza e una perspicacia fuori dal comune. I protagonisti di questo romanzo sono moltissimi ed ognuno è speciale a suo modo. I miei preferiti sono stati: ovviamente Bertie, il pittore saggio Angus con il suo cane, lo spocchioso Bruce, l'antoppologa Domenica e a dire il vero tutti gli altri hanno un che di coinvolgente. Ci si appassiona proprio alla vita di queste persone, ti viene la voglia di entrare a far parte di questo quartiere. Inoltre, nota molto importante e della quale sono stata molto fiera, l'autore non fa altro che nominare in qualsiasi modo l'Italia, un paese che si vede conoscce perfettamente e che adora.
Patricia
The latest installment of Smith's 44 Scotland Street series is yet another voyeuristic visit to Edinburgh. Although all characters have their own individual stories, their stories commingle peripherally as they would in town environs. I enjoy that all the characters are flawed in their own way, making them quintessentially human. Love and comfort are mistaken for each other; friendship and neighbors don’t always mix, and one can never overstate the importance of a dog’s companionship.This is a cozy read with a cup of tea but nothing to cause much introspection or alarm.
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