The Revolving Door of Life – The Magic Formula of Our Love For Bertie

Book Review: The Revolving Door of Life
A 44 Scotland Street Novel

By Alexander McCall Smith

Spoiler Alert!



Things are looking up for seven-year-old Bertie Pollock. The arrival of his spirited grandmother and the absence of his meddlesome mother – who is currently running a book club in a Bedouin harem (don’t ask) – bring unforeseen blessings: no psychotherapy, no Italian lessons, and no yoga classes. Meanwhile, surprises await Scotland Street’s grown-ups. Matthew makes a discovery that could be a major windfall for his family. Pat learns a secret about her father’s fiancee. And the Duke of Johannesburg finds himself in sudden need of an explanation – and an escape route – when accosted by a determined guest at a soiree.
From cunning schemes of the Association of Scottish Nudists to the myriad expressive possibilities of the word “aye,” Alexander McCall Smith guides us through the risks and rewards of friendship, love, and family with his usual inimitable wit and irresistible charm. (Book cover art courtesy of

Adult Point of View

If you have barely stepped into the world of parenthood you will barely be discovering how life truly is a revolving door. In fact, it’s kind of scary how quickly it revolves – watch out that you don’t get stuck. Smith once again hits on truisms of our culture with an uncanny insight. If you haven’t started reading this series I would recommend it highly because it can be read at a leisurely pace and so ten installments doesn’t need to be overwhelming. When there are more than six books in a series I usually won’t start it because it seems like too firm of a commitment at that point. Smith will beguile you along the path and you won’t even notice how quickly the reading time has gone by as you snicker and groan.

One of the essential characters to the success of the 44 Scotland Street series is Bertie. I have stated before, that any book with Bertie in it is sure to be read – not just by me – but his thousands of fans (perhaps we are all surrogate mothers to Bertie). Bertie has the innocence of youth, but the intellectual capacity of adults and the insight of a precocious child. Bertie’s longed for freedom is within his grasp under the loving care of his grandmother until the fateful phone call from Stuart, “She’s back.” No other explanation is needed, no platitudes that all will be well can be spoken, and certainly no doubt that freedom has been cruelly curtailed. I can barely forgive Smith for this injustice to Bertie, but only because Irene is part of the magic formula that makes Bertie so irresistible. Without the monstrous cow Irene there would be no Bertie; just like any mother she is why he is who he is. Just because Bertie rises above the strictures placed upon him by his mother through forebearance, and a belief that he can leave her when he is 18, doesn’t mean that she wasn’t the instrument of his development. He just happens to be the antithesis of his mother. We all want a good, happy life for Bertie, but if his life wasn’t a misery we wouldn’t be able to champion for him quite so much.

There are a few other quotes to look for while reading this book that are beyond delightful:

“You don’t deserve to have two eyebrows.”

“Of course, we used to undress for dinner,”

“Jist tchyaving awa” (Since I’m not from Scotland this variety always gives me pause.)

“She was a very manipulative woman, a bit like…”

“Because stepping on a crack harms the immune system.”

“He probably went off to fetch Unicorn.”

“That’s what happens when one begins to appreciate things for what they are, rather than for what they cost.”

“Please don’t stop being a Duke.”

“A sort of guest-concubine. Rather like a Gastarbeiter.”

“It’s important to know when you’re happy.”

4.5 out of 5 stars
4 1:2 star

  • Michelle

If you enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith’s books try A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

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. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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