More comings and goings at 44 Scotland St. and in its charming Edinburgh environs.
The main going is ongoing: the continued absence of Bertie Pollock’s basilisk of a mother, Irene, who’s been detained indefinitely in a Persian Gulf harem, where she’s organized a book group while she waits for the diplomats to sort out her return. Stuart Pollock may be a dab hand at statistics, but he’s not up to the task of managing Bertie, who’s just turned 7, or his infant brother, Ulysses, on his own. So he calls his own mother, Nicola Tavares de Lumiares, who leaves her husband behind in Portugal and flies to her son’s side, to the deep gratification of everyone, especially Bertie. Outside town, gallery owner Matthew Harmony, his wife, Elspeth, and their triplets are still settling into an old farmhouse Matthew’s bought from the Duke of Johannesburg, who’s constantly afraid that his right to his title will be exposed by the self-appointed authorities of the peerage, when Matthew discovers a secret room hidden behind a bookcase. Matthew’s assistant and former girlfriend, Pat McGregor, is so worried that Anichka, the young Czech woman who’s engaged to her psychiatrist father, is a gold digger that she contemplates desperate measures: throwing her own ex-boyfriend, irresistibly handsome narcissist Bruce Anderson, into Anichka’s path to test her motives and perhaps derail her schemes. Only portrait painter Angus Lordie and his bride, anthropologist Domenica Macdonald, seem to be moving forward on an even keel—so there’s little to say about them until Angus has a touching epiphany and composes a poem whose heartfelt spirits are perhaps a bit loftier than the actual proceedings.
As usual, it’s hard to tell from moment to moment which disturbances in Smith’s universe (Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers, 2015, etc.) will pass after a momentary frisson and which will lead to serious ethical dilemmas. A bit like life, when you think about it.