Tag Archives: 44 Scotland Street

‘The Bertie Project’ (#11) and ‘A Time of Love and Tartan’ (#12) by Alexander McCall Smith







“Sometimes we need to escape the world, sometimes we need desperately to engage with it. The magic of books is that we can do both through them, with nary an extra calorie or hangover to show for it.” Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

I’ve been  “binge reading” again and playing catchup with the last two instalments of Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series!

Why do we love series so much and why are they good for us, especially for kids? Here’s some reasons: 1) familiarity and the joy of already knowing some of the characters and the excitement of finding out what happens next,  2) ease of choice about what to read,  3) positive reinforcement and a sense of accomplishment, 4) momentum because we tend to gobble them up and read them quickly. It’s all of the same reasons we binge watch TV shows.

Probably best know for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective series, McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series is about the residents of a fictitious apartment building on a real street in Edinburgh. Check out the author’s website for complete book lists. What I love about McCall Smith is his sense of humour, his musings about moral decisions, and his presentation of everyday sorts of problems to solve. After hearing him speak a number of times in the UK, I can imagine him chortling as he drafts another character’s dilemma.

The Bertie Project (11) deals with some darker topics such as tragic accidents and infidelity. Elspeth struggles to find help with her rambunctious triplets, Bruce’s latest girlfriend has a dangerous interest in extreme sports, and poor seven year old Bertie and his father Stuart continue to be under the thumb of their overbearing mother and wife. Irene used to be amusingly awful but now she has become insufferable.

A Time of Love and Tartan (12) brings some things to a satisfying conclusion and leaves others hanging–of course that’s life isn’t it? There’s a slapstick scene involving Matthew and the police over a misunderstanding in a bookstore, oddly Pat reveals she still has feelings for that narcissist Bruce, Elspeth finds a solution for her triplets that seems too good to be true,  and I can say that at least there is finally some hope and joy for Bertie and Stuart!

‘The Importance of Being Seven’ and ‘Bertie Plays the Blues’ by Alexander McCall Smith

The Importance of Being Seven

starstarstarIs this what is meant by compulsive reading? It’s like eating chips, or enjoying cookies straight out of the oven, it’s impossible to stop at one! As a break before the next ‘heavier’ book I need to read, I thought I would squeeze in another of the 44 Scotland Street series, and yes, it became two! I had to spend just a bit more time with these characters and discover if there would be any break for Bertie from his overbearing mother, any happiness on the horizon for Matthew, and perhaps news on who the father of Ulysses really is. Would Cyril bite anymore ankles and would Stuart ever be able to remember where he parked his car?

Daunt BooksAlexander McCall Smith fans will be envious to hear that I had an opportunity to hear him speak at a marvellous old bookstore in London called Daunt Books. The store is an original Edwardian with oak balconies, skylights and a fantastic window. Books seem even more magical on Daunt shelves, and I always buy a book in independent bookstores like this to make sure they can survive. This little gem is a must-see right alongside Big Ben & Buckingham if you ever come to London!

Bertie Plays the BluesstarstarstarThe author was in fine form that evening. What an engaging speaker, and I realized that the reason for his animation is that he truly loves the characters in his books (and that’s why we do too–it’s contagious!). He launched into his talk speaking about Bertie and Isobel and Mma Ramotswe as if they were old friends, his own chuckles bubbling up as he discussed their recent misfortunes or speculated on future foibles. And surely they are ‘old friends’ to all of us, if we know the series well. Palpable in the room of fans was this odd feeling that somehow, though all strangers to each other, we were linked by a group of fictional people!

Here’s a clip from a talk in Toronto where he reads from this instalment–it gives a flavour of what he’s like in person – a delight to listen to.