Tag Archives: Scotland

*** A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith

In A Time of Love and Tartan, our friend Bertie‘s mother is moving out and his father quits his job, setting us up for a very different kind of story in the next installment, I think. (The overbearing mother’s theme was getting, well, a bit overbearing!) In the meantime, we are treated to the usual lovely observations of Bertie’s teacher trying to mediate peace with his difficult classmates, a gallery director who gets into trouble with his old English teacher, and a young woman who is tempted by a terribly inappropriate old flame. Or, and some Pygmies come for lunch, too.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under New fiction

*** The Bertie Project by Alexander McCall

Bertie’s mom is back, sadly for him — but I predict he will grow into an even more thoughtful and strong young man as a result of her overbearing upbringing. So as he trudges from psychotherapy to Italian lessons to saxophone lessons, he is learning. We also have lots of adventures with the triplets and their au-pairs, and a new child appears on the scene so children all around.

Back to the mom: aren’t evil female characters enjoyable , and mothers to boot?

1 Comment

Filed under New fiction

** Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith

Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers (in the 44 Scotland Street Series) brings us Bertie without his mother, who has been waylaid, improbably, during a stay in Dubai (hence the two-star rating — surely there would be a better way to make her disappear for a few months!) Freed from his obsessed mother, he can participate in all kinds of delightful activities, from eating ice cream to ditching his psychotherapy sessions, and displays his considerable charm and caring to his heretofore-remote grandmother. Assorted other characters also make an appearance. Lovely if you can compartmentalize that silly disappearance device.

1 Comment

Filed under New fiction

*** The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith

In the 44 Scotland Street series, The Importance of Being Seven is titled for Bertie, who is indeed about to turn seven and still trying to escape the domination of his controlling mother (he does manage to bring his baby brother to school, unassisted, in this episode!). But it also stars his old teacher, now married, whose first pregnancy ultrasound brings many blessings, and a remarkable holiday in Tuscany by a group of friends, who bears a suspicious but entirely charming resemblance to My Italian Bulldozer.

 

1 Comment

Filed under New fiction

* At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

At The Water’s Edge stars a trio of spoiled Philadelphians who decide to go photograph the Loch Ness monster near the end of the Second World War, bringing with them a breaking-down marriage and very little money as they have been cut off from the family fortune after one too many escapade. Their haughty and oblivious behaviors do not endear them to the locals, but as the two men leave the woman to wait for them at the inn, she mysteriously acquires half a brain, realizes that she is acting as a twit, and even manages to contribute a bit to the world. A love story ensues, of course, in which she is forever rescued from her weaknesses by the stoic, taciturn local. Cliches abound. I did not like.

Leave a comment

Filed under New fiction

*** The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel

I can feel a new crime series starting: with The Strings of Murder, we not only encounter a blood-soaked Victorian mystery, but also two inspectors with, as we would say today, personal baggage, one a London snob who is slumming it in Edinburgh after having been kicked out of his job at Scotland Yard in the midst of a political intrigue and the other a local with a frightful family history. The mystery will be solved, after many more murders and twists, and I imagine the inspectors will make it to another book.

Every once in a while the historical details seem overdone, or the conversation is anachronistic (no teenagers in Victorian times!) but the overall effect is engrossing.

Leave a comment

Filed under New fiction

*** Rise by Karen Campbell


Rise is the fictional story of another kind of escape into the countryside, from sexual abuse into a small Scotland village. But there are no cliches about abusive relationships, no platitudes about small-town life, and, mercifully, no harangues about the Scottish independence vote, which is about to happen as a minor theme in the story. The story is thrilling but the focus is on the heroine and her complicated feelings and scheming as she burrows into a local family for protection, while the family is imploding, in part because of her actions. Even the ending is properly sober. Highly recommended!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New fiction