• Michael Braccia

Book review: The World According to Bertie (Alexander McCall Smith)

Updated: Aug 4, 2019


The 4th book in the ‘Scotland Street’ series and it doesn’t disappoint. McCall Smith is the master of the understated phrase, and when subtlety is required, he excels. He never finds a need for ‘bad’ language, getting his point across superbly without causing offence to anyone. Even an encounter in a shower between two consenting adults does not result in anything that would offend your grandmother, even though a pregnancy and engagement result from said encounter. McCall Smith described the event and the fortunate young man, Bruce.

‘He could hear the shower being run. Duty calls, he said to himself.’

At the start of the next chapter, moving onto another character, he mentions him in passing, describing the young man’s antics with an interesting word.

‘While Bruce was entertaining Julia in her flat...’

The subject of the book’s title, Bertie, is a six-year-old genius. Saxophone player, multi-lingual, highly literate and numerate, but with an over-bearing mother. Poor old Bertie. He gets into scrapes that boys of his age should not experience, like having blood taken from his arm by Olive, who likes to think that she is Bertie’s girlfriend (they were playing nurse and patient, and she took it literally).

Alexander McCall Smith creates wonderful, and in the main, believable characters. You must start with the first book, ’44 Scotland Street’, progress to ‘Espresso Tales’, and then ‘Love over Scotland’ before visiting ‘The World According to Bertie’. If you like good writing, like to be entertained and want to lose yourself in a comfortable imaginary world, you will love these books.

Michael Braccia


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