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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 July 2013
I've read all the Scotland Street novels and marvel at how the imaginative stories keep coming. I very much enjoyed this next instalment of life among the Edinburgh New town folk whose lives are interwoven in this series. Like a good soap opera most of the characters have been in the series for years: Bertie, his over-bearing mother, Irene; his long-suffering father, Stuart; Big Lou in her coffee bar frequented by Mathew the new father of triplets born to Elspeth in the last book and newly married Angus Lourdie and his amazing dog. Obnoxious Bruce only makes a fleeting appearance, and Pat finds happiness elsewhere.

Bertie remains the central character forever anticipating being seven which he finally attains in this book. Will he remain seven for several more years? His mother, is a wonderful creation that enables the author to poke fun at extreme feminism, psychoanalysis and dietary restrictions. Irene gets involved in a hilarious train of events that will have to be resolved in the next book. I can't wait.

As someone who's lived and worked in Edinburgh these books give extra pleasure as so many familiar places, people, prejudices (against Glasgow), the independence referendum and local issues (the trams!) are spliced into the narrative.

Superficially, the stories are created to amuse but, as always, there's a undercurrent of philosophical conumdrums and issues of morality that makes one stop and think. Some will feel these books paint a anodyne picture of privileged lives and avoid some of the harsh realities of these uncertain times, but it's not a bad thing to read a book that leaves one feeling happy. Denise Mina gives the other side of Scotland: literally and metaphorically.
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on 7 August 2013
It always seems to take forever for these books to come around even though they are very frequent. I had been anticipating a good "Bertie" book for a while and it didn't disappoint. Small criticism is that some story lines seem to just drop off the radar e.g. Bruce, Cyril's problem after too much beer, Angus's wanderings and such, where they either have no resolution or skip to a resolution. However there is ample writing dedicated to the characters we all love especially Bertie and company (Ranald, Tofu, Olive) and the Lordies. I ate this up in less than 24 hours despite many other calls on my time since once you start you can't stop. If you have enjoyed others in the series this is amongst the best and if you haven't, get on it!
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on 17 August 2013
I couldn't wait for this, the layest in the Scotland Street series. I have come to know all the characters personally over the time of reading them, and this one is no exception. I don't want to finish it, as I expect it'll be a longish wait for the next one. An excellent read.
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on 11 December 2013
Fans of the Scotland Street novels will enjoy this book very much. It is good to be able to read something that is humourous and yet thought provoking at times. It is good to be able to recognise character traits that we find in ourselves or our friends, and to be able to laugh at them. I also like AMcCS's philosophical and social comments that crop up here and there. I know some people don't but maybe it is because I often agree with him!
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on 28 May 2014
I am enormously impressed by the author's output. I have looked him up on Wikipedia which provides a categorised listing of all his books: those set in Botswana, those in Edinburgh, those in London (Pimlico) and those set in Switzerland. I have read samples of each but I am drawn to those in Edinburgh: namely those with Elizabeth Dalhousie as the protagonist, and those based on Scotland Street which features to day to day activities of a variety of amiable, outgoing, well educated (or self educated) folk, mostly aged between 20 and 50, with the principal exception of Bertie who, after seemingly ages aged SIX, has now finally turned SEVEN.

Bertie is exceptionally gifted (speaks Italian, plays the saxophone, reads and understands newspapers. Unfortunately he is also gifted with a crazy mother, Irene whose distorted take on feminism makes her determined to bring up Bertie as 'gender neutral';
whereas Bertie himself much prefers to be treated like other boys, e.g., he wants a Swiss army penknife for his birthday. And what of Bertie's father Stuart. He's on Bertie's side of course but one wonders how he and Irene got together in the first place. I guess we will never find out: it's in the past but the future is yours to find out - by reading the book!
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on 31 July 2013
Lynda Pritchard Newcombe's Review of Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers:

One wonders how many more times Alexander McCall Smith will find something new to say about these intriguing characters in the Scotland Street novel series. Well, he has done it again and arguably this book is better than any other in the series. The Bertie tales are hilarious but each chapter holds something special to relish on all the characters, whether loveable or obnoxious.

This is relaxing, comfort reading with the bonus of philsophising challenging the little grey cells.

I cannot wait for the next one.

I hope we get to know what happens to Bertie when he is 18. How long will we have to wait?!!!

Lynda Pritchard Newcombe
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on 2 February 2014
I love Alexander Mcall Smith and I have read absolutely everything that he has written. For the first time I have not really enjoyed one of his books. It felt a little as though he had run out of ideas. The writing is, as always, stylish and erudite, but I never had that " must go to bed to read my book" feeling. Nevertheless I will still continue to read everything he writes, because usually his work is so entertaining.
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on 30 June 2014
If you have read the others you will know what you're getting with this one. I am always hesitant to recommend these books as you either love them or find them a little slow. Much depends on knowing and understanding all the characters and those who already do so will already have devoured this book along with all the others. Perhaps this one was not quite as good as some of the earlier ones, but I wouldn't be prepared to miss an episode!
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on 7 July 2014
Just another good story from McCall Smith. Bertie is a great character. Wise beyond his years. And it is good to read someone who has a good grasp of the English language. The humour is gentle and better for that. If you haven;t discovered A M S you are missing a delightful read. If you read this and enjoy it you will certainly want to read the whole series.
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on 27 January 2015
I have avidly read all the Scotland Street books but I 'm afraid this one was a bit disappointing. It's written in the same engaging style but was lacking in plot development. There are several new strands to the ongoing story which go nowhere, giving me the impression that the book was dashed off at the last minute to keep the publisher quiet. The one saisfying thing is hat Bertie finally makes it to the age of 7!
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