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THE BERTIE PROJECT by Alexander McCall Smith


by Alexander McCall Smith

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-525-43300-2
Publisher: Anchor

Forbidden love blooms at 44 Scotland St. (The Revolving Door of Life, 2016, etc.).

Or perhaps sputters rather than blooms. Not that Edinburgh’s most beloved block of flats doesn’t encourage warm feelings, like portrait painter Angus Lordie’s affection for his bride, anthropologist Domenica Macdonald—that’s “Dr. Macdonald” to you—or 7-year-old Bertie Pollock’s calm acceptance of everyone from his tormenting schoolmate, Olive, to his domineering mother, Irene. True love has even infected narcissistic Bruce Anderson, who’s finally met his match in Clare Hodding, an Amazonian Australian with a fondness for extreme sports and a determination to turn Bruce into a hipster and marry him. Although Bertie’s grandmother Nicola Tavares de Lumiares gets a summary notice of impending divorce from her husband, a Portuguese vintner smitten with his housekeeper, and romance continues to elude Big Lou, whose Coffee and Conversation Bar provides a welcome resting place for Angus and gallery owner Matthew Harmony, they take these disappointments with such equanimity that they barely register as disappointments at all. And the unexpected departure of Anna and Birgitte, the Danish au pairs Matthew and his wife, Elspeth, have engaged for their triplets, Tobermory, Rognvald, and Fergus, is followed by Bruce’s equally unexpected suggestion that Clare would be the perfect replacement. Given the generally unruffled contentment, clandestine love is left to take root, in all places, in Bertie’s father, henpecked statistician Stuart Pollock, who loses his heart to a young woman who’s kind enough to give him a napkin when he spills soup at a vegetarian restaurant and who, above all, isn’t his monstrous wife.

Even woolier than earlier installments—two characters following a third suspected of adultery discuss the propriety of “alright” versus “all right,” and another regular’s fall from an upper-story window is accompanied by a summary of notable Scottish defenestrations—but just as affecting in its slow-burning way.