“The Importance of Being Seven” – Why Do We Love Bertie?

Book Review : The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith

Spoiler Alert!

The characters of Edinburgh are out in full force. Pat is hoping to find a boyfriend instead of her friend who is a boy. Matthew and Elspeth find they are quickly outgrowing their beloved flat. Irene, who is normally so predictable, turns up missing. Bertie anxiously awaits the day when he turns seven. Ulysses finds a new means of self-expression. Even Big Lou has a mysterious side never before seen. Is the new Bruce still more bluster than substance? Is Bertie’s new psychologist, Dr. St. Clair, familiar with Melanie Klein? Stuart plans a fishing trip that turns into something entirely new. Cyril continues winking at ladies and is on a quest for smells. Angus and Domenica go on a holiday with Antonia, and each discovering the romance of Italy. Love comes in many guises.

Adult Point of View

Alexander McCall Smith has developed one of the most loveable characters I have ever met in the 44 Scotland Street series. Bertie’s appeal exponentially grows in contrast to our dislike of his mother, Irene. The scary thing is that I have met shades of Irene among my children’s friends. Stewart, Berties’s father, is an extreme disappointment having the strength of character of soggy toast which also increases my concern for poor little Bertie. Thankfully Stewart finally does take Bertie camping even over the objections of his wife. Olive, Bertie’s unwanted friend, is truly horrid and perhaps a petite version of Irene as a child as she tries to manipulate her friends into the mold she desires. Thankfully, Bertie is such a good child I feel like he will eventually come out of this crazy family and actually be normal. I laughed out loud when Bertie’s younger brother, Ulysses, vomits every time he sees his mother.  “Poor Mummy, thought Bertie; she loves little Ulysses so much and already he’s sick of her.” (p. 47) I can imagine Smith rubbing his hands laughing as more delightful atrocities are created for Bertie, knowing all the while that we will only love this little boy even more.

I love the words that Smith tosses out, here are a few that I particularly enjoyed.

pedagogic p.3 – adj. teachers

motility p.6 – n. capable of moving

marginalia p.61 – notes in the margin

palimpsest p.62 – n. a manuscript with multiple levels of writing each one being                                           erased to make room for the next script

teleologically p.73 – adv. philosophy that a purpose exists in nature

infantile omertá p.87 – children’s code of secrecy

somnambulism p.172 – n. sleepwalking (this is in reference to a dog)

attenuated p.173 – reduced in intensity

If you are a fan of this series you will love this addition.

4 out of 5 stars

– Michelle

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About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow cooked in a tagine. Weekly I get together with friends and go to yoga for a bit of mommy time. Some may find me quirky, I prefer to think I am one of a kind.
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