Book Review: Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith

I borrowed a small stack of McCall Smith’s books from the library —  rather haphazardly I’m afraid, as I didn’t properly check to see which book belonged to which series, let alone what number in the series each book was. I was attracted to this book as I happened to catch a snippet of an audio recording on YouTube before the trip to the library and thought it held promise.

bertie's guide to life and mothers

The opening sentences drew me right in. Straight away, we are introduced to Bertie Pollock (6) and his family. I have always had a soft spot for precocious and somewhat misunderstood children and Bertie fits the bill perfectly. Bertie lives with his well-meaning, progressive (s)mother Irene; his sympathetic father Stuart; and baby brother Ulysses. All Bertie wants is to be 18 and free, but before he can get there, he has to turn seven, and that means a birthday party. Bertie would like nothing more than a swiss army knife, copious amounts of pizza and sausages, and to be able to play with boys without the presence of meddling girls. Irene, of course, has other plans. Who will prevail?

Angus Lordie and Domenica Macdonald have to deal with Angus’ somnambulism and the sudden re-appearance of Domenica’s former flatmate/neighbour, Antonia. Antonia had gone to Italy to pursue a holy vocation but is now back with a friend, Sister Maria-Fiore dei Fiori di Montagna (who is always referred to and addressed as such throughout the book), who has a penchant for enigmatic aphorisms.

Matthew and Elspeth are busy with triplet toddlers, and even with an au pair, find it difficult to manage. They decide to hire an au pair for the au pair and move to a bigger house.


Reading Matthew and Elspeth’s story made me think of something I read on the internet where filthy rich people did not know they were rich.

Maids and Drivers

I can hear it now:

“What? Everyone has an au pair.”

“Really? ‘Everyone has an au pair’? Does your au pair have an au pair?”

“Why, yes. Yes, she does.”

“Oh…. Well, does her au pair have an au pair, then?”

“Okay, you’ve got me there.”


Matthew’s friend, Big Lou, the proprietress of the local coffee bar is getting on in age — single and childless. She longs to have some positive influence on a young life and looks into fostering.

These are just some of the characters who live on 44 Scotland Street. Although I started with the ninth (!!) book in the series, I don’t think this is too detrimental as I believe McCall Smith fills in the relevant backdrop information for each character to keep the reader up to date.

This was my first Alexander McCall Smith’s novel and I liked it very much. Some parts were probably a bit over the top, but overall it was a delightful read.


About yewnique

I am a Malaysian-born woman who is married to an Australian and now live in Melbourne, Australia. I am a mother to four children. I home school. I like reading, writing, and cooking -- not necessarily in that order. I care about grammar and spelling, but am nonchalant about the Oxford Comma. I try to follow Christ's teachings.

Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2016, in Books and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. McCall Smith does let you jump in in the middle of the series – which is good because I have experienced the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series completely out of order.

    I have not read any in the #44 Scotland Street series, but it does sound as witty as the rest of his books.


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