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44 Scotland Street #7

Bertie Plays the Blues

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Domestic bliss seems in short supply at 44 Scotland Street. Over at the Pollocks, dad, Stuart, is harbouring a secret about a secret society and Bertie is feeling kind of blue. Having had enough of his neurotic hot-housing mother, he puts himself up for adoption on eBay. Will he go to the highest bidder or will he have to take matters into his own hands? Will the lovelorn Big Lou find true love on the internet? And will Angus Lordie and Domenica make it up the aisle? Catch up with all your favourite faces down in 44 Scotland Street as we follow their daily pursuit of a little happiness

320 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Alexander McCall Smith

565 books11.6k followers
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit him online at www.alexandermccallsmith.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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5 stars
2,015 (35%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 592 reviews
Profile Image for John.
97 reviews
September 5, 2011
The 44 Scotland Street novels are not fluff. They humorous and humane. The characters--except for Bruce--are not coercive. And Bruce gets what he deserves in this book--lots of money and no love. This book is fantasy. But the fantasy is an appealing one: that good, though imperfect, people might get what they deserve. Elspeth, Matthew and the triplets get the best au pair in the world. Big Lou finds a kind widower, a contemporary from Arbroath. Pat finds an uncomplicated man to love. And Domenica and Angus find one another--and Domenica accepts Cyril along with Angus. And Bertie, brilliant, kind, honest Bertie, whose mother gives him the blues, get a reprieve, when a kind stranger convinces his mother Irene to give him a chance to be a boy.

Alexander McCall Smith is constantly reminding us that our personal world need not be cold and cynical like the world around us. Kindness, tolerance and forgiveness can improve all of our family and friendly relationships. These traits become easier to foster when we recognize that our happiness depends much more on the "tenor" of our personal world than on our place in the competitive world around us. In fact, rejecting the false values and rankings of the big world is the biggest step we can make toward creating a personal world of happiness.

Profile Image for Laura.
772 reviews280 followers
August 31, 2018
4.5-4.75 stars. Oh I wish I could buy all of AMS's books and give them to everyone in the world to read. These books are humorous and entertaining but most of all, they are lessons in small kindnesses, and how much of a difference they make in the world.

His The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series will probably always be my favorite, and it's the only series I've ever read completely twice over. But this one is a close second. And it keeps getting better. These last two volumes are my favorites in this series so far.

I truly hope God continues to bless this man's pen and word processor. He is a treasure. I love him as much as anyone can ever love someone they have never met. I can't praise the man or his books any more highly.

Long live AMS!
Profile Image for Lyn Battersby.
234 reviews12 followers
March 10, 2012
This is my 3rd Scotland Street novel and I have to say, this series is fast becoming my favourite. As much as I love Mma Ramotswe, I find I am forming a greater bond with Bertie. For me, Bertie is pretty much the best character in modern literature. I know I am never going to be a traditionally built lady from Botswana, driving around in my little white car, solving problems, but I do know the angst of being young and not knowing how to verbalise what *you* want from life in the face of what your parents dictate for your life.
Bertie Plays The Blues is, of course, not only about Bertie and his problems. We sit alongside Domenica as she struggles with what life is compared to what life should be. We hold Angus' hand as he bravely copes with a possible disruption to his future. We even pat the pretensious Irene on the back as she is forced to face a few home truths - whether she takes the lesson on board remains to be seen but for now we can only hope she unbends a little.
In the end Scotland St, like all of McCall Smith's work, is about the ties that bind and the goodness behind the motives of most people. I recommend McCall Smith to anyone who wants to take a breath of fresh air and once more see the world through kind eyes.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,681 followers
February 26, 2020
So much happened!

Triplets were born and the poor dears were named horrible things! And they got an adorable au pair!

Big Lou has found love! (I hope!)

Bruce was an asshole!

Bertie might have a real friend! And Irene might finally be seeing the light!

These books are so fun! Every chapter makes me think: why don’t I move to Edinburgh?!
Profile Image for Mira.
Author 1 book60 followers
October 20, 2012
I love Alexander McCall Smith. He Tweets short stories, always has interesting things to say and write, and is the author of one of my favourite series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency featuring my favourite detective Ma Ramotswe.

His other two series, The Sunday Philosophy Club and 44 Scotland Street (of which this book is part of) are set in Edinburgh. The characters that populate these series are thoughtful and philosophical (the give away is in that series title right!) and many words are leant to these thoughts. Even Cyril (the dog with the gold tooth) has ponderings.

My issue is that reading around four pages of thoughts and ruminations put me into glazed over mode, and really doesn't keep me with the story. The thoughts really interrupt my enjoyment of the story.

The redeeming feature of this book is the precocious Bertie - a boy genius who plays saxophone at Grade 5 and is fluent in Italian. Sadly he's afflicted with a horribly overbearing mother who makes him wear pink dungarees and practice yoga.

The Bertie sections are brilliant. He's such an amiable little soul and I looked forward to his appearances all the way through the book. Its very easy to love Bertie.

I don't think I'll drop back into Scotland Street anytime soon, but it was a nice day trip on this occasion!

Profile Image for Marianne.
3,503 reviews178 followers
July 31, 2012
Bertie Plays the Blues is the 7th novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s popular 44 Scotland Street series. Once again we join our favourite Edinburgh characters in their daily lives. Matthew and Elspeth are delighted to now have three sons, whom they have ambitiously named, but are finding them difficult to tell apart, and exhausting to care for, until help arrives from Denmark; Angus Lordie and Domenica McDonald discuss living arrangements for their marriage, but the appearance of a former boyfriend has Domenica reconsidering; Pat Macgregor returns to Matthew’s Gallery and finds herself once again a rabbit caught in the headlights of Bruce Anderson’s gaze; Big Lou bans Matthew from the coffee bar and enters the world of internet dating; and Bertie, longing to do what other six-and-three-quarter-year-old boys do and fed up with Irene running his life, puts himself up for adoption on eBay. In this delightful instalment, McCall Smith touches on subjects as diverse as the acronyms used in internet dating, wisdom and happiness, the Masons, sincerity in animals, sensitivity (or lack of it) in Scottish men, the dehumanising effect of technology and the purpose of chocolate cake. The characters develop further: Angus proves his wisdom and generosity; Stuart shows some backbone; Bertie discovers he loves Irene despite her controlling nature; Domenica shows her selfish side; Irene shows she has a heart and Bruce, beautiful, vain, arrogant, perfidious Bruce attains possibly even higher levels of offensiveness now that his new leaf has shrivelled up and died (but he’s so much more fun this way!) Even minor characters get to say some insightful things, like equating dangerous and deluded German mental patients to Italian politicians. As always, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments: the fate of Elpseth’s father reduced me to tears of laughter, and Bruce’s freak accident had a similar effect. Once again, light-hearted, philosophical and thought-provoking: readers will eagerly await the eighth instalment, Sunshine on Scotland Street.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,691 reviews26 followers
August 20, 2015
The Scotland Street series is funny, clever, and endearing. The Edinburgh of these books is a place we'd all love to live. I'd add, except for July and August when the city is crammed with tourists who traverse the city in large packs, oblivious to all other humanity, and the obstruction they create. Despite trying visitors, Edinburgh residents couldn't be friendlier. I was pleased that there's a reference to the Belfast poet Michael Longley in this book. Smith includes so many interesting comments linked to literature, history and more that demonstrate what a knowledgeable writer he is. The additions make reading him even more fun. Bertie continues to struggle with his unreasonably demanding mother but there are signs in this installment she may be turning a corner.
Profile Image for Tim.
905 reviews39 followers
October 5, 2013
I mean this entirely as praise (and decidedly not as "damning with faint..."): Alexander McCall Smith is a king of the middlebrow novel. I've read a few of these serialized novels (an extraordinary feat of execution, by the way), and finally understand his appeal: He offers novels of ideas that are also novels of about domestic drama, about people who are enormously appealing to middlebrow readers (of whom I am one). We like life rendered in fictional form, with drama, scandal, gossip, and tidbits (or titbits as they say across the pond), and we like interesting ideas; these books could be called comedies of manners, but a better, though more awkward, term might be comedies of philosophies.

Nearly every character in the 44 Scotland Street series is a philosopher of some kind, with the exception of seven-year-old Bertie and his awful friend Olive. His mother, the delightfully horrible Irene, has a million of philosophies and a shrewish insistence of being right, though she is easily the most tyrannical of the denizens of Edinburgh. People are interested in ideas, they are interested in morality, and they are above all else interested in civility, or the desire to be civil even when their natures drift them in the other direction.

Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,574 reviews3 followers
June 23, 2016
This series continues to make me smile. The characters are charming and adorable (even the annoying ones like Bruce and Bertie's mom) and I want to have a drink with them at the Cumberland Bar. I love the way this series was written, chapter by chapter as a serial publication. Bertie is his usual brilliant and cute self who is truly a good person deep down inside. Even when everyone seems to be struggling with a dilema, these books always have an upbeat quality to them which I love and keeps me coming back for more. I am very attached to these characters at this point and love learning about their lives (even the mundane things). Many things seem a little far-fetched but so endearing in these books that it makes me laugh and I accept them for what they are. I enjoy that all the books end with Domica and Angus having a dinner party and Angus reciting a poem that echoes the themes brought up in this book.
Profile Image for Trelawn.
345 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2015
It looks like Bertie might finally get some peace to be the little boy he is and not a moment too soon. But I really do hate Bruce with an all consuming passion. He had better get his comeuppance by the end of this series. For everyone else, life in Edinburgh is ticking along nicely. A truly inspired set of books.
Profile Image for Andie.
848 reviews7 followers
March 17, 2021
This is the seventh book in the delightful 44 Scotland Street series, and major changes are happening to our cast of characters. Matthew and Elspeth have triplets and quickly become overwhelmed by the job of caring for three babies, especially when Matthew removes their name bracelets, and now who knows which is which? Angus and Dominica are getting ready to be married, but now questions arise as to where they will live. Big Lou starts dating via an online service, but then finds a promising prospect in a very unusual place. Pat comes back to work for Matthew in the gallery, but also reconnects with Bruce the narcissist. And finally, both Bertie and his father, Stuart, appear to be standing up for themselves against the overbearing Irene when Stuart joins the masons and Bertie decides to put himself up for adoption on eBay.

Much like the author's No. 1 Ladies Detective series, these books are a delight from start to finish.
Profile Image for Jenn Mattson.
1,070 reviews32 followers
February 21, 2020
This one could be one of my favorite installments (despite two small hiccups where the author seemed to have forgotten Bertie's trip to Paris a few installments ago and what happened with Pat in the last installment), because so many delightful events happened to and for the characters. The ending - with the requisite poem from Angus - had the most tender twist that I had tears in my eyes (especially because my three favorite characters were all sitting together). The delightful, but so very briefly seen, Dilly Emsley has a fabulously pivotal moment. And I just loved the observations on human nature so much in this installment: Alexander McCall Smith, you are heaven sent! These stories just warm my soul and make me laugh out loud and gnash my teeth and cry. I love them so! (Sorry for the minor spoiler, but Bertie putting himself on eBay nearly did me in!)
Profile Image for Alisha.
1,043 reviews70 followers
November 2, 2019
Alternated between the audiobook and the ebook. The audiobook is really well read; it made some of the funny stuff even funnier.
Profile Image for Mandolin.
602 reviews
June 7, 2012
See the beautiful city of Edinburgh through the eyes of the current and former inhabitants of 44 Scotland Street and its surroundings as Alexander McCall Smith catches up with them once again in this splendid new novel. Matthew and Elsbeth, the new parents of triplets, see it through the tired eyes that are hungry for sleep and desperate for a little peace in their lives, despite their enormous love for their three tiny little boys (even if they can't tell them apart!) Angus and Domenica, so recently engaged, see it through the rose-tinted eyes of love as they prepare for their upcoming wedding and face the questions that all such couples ask themselves prior to making that huge commitment. The chance for love also appears to be on the horizon for Big Lou - will this be the man that she's been waiting for so long or will he just disappoint her like the rest? Pat, too, is facing questions of her own heart as she reconnects with her old flames Matthew and Bruce. Finally, little Bertie Pollock sees it through eyes filled with unhappiness as he continues to try to cope with his overbearing mother and aggravating classmates in his need to be "just a little boy." At the same time, his own father is learning to stand up for himself against his wife in subtle and somewhat subversive ways.

I always close the last page of an Alexander McCall Smith book feeling so enriched, both emotionally and intellectually. Each page is so full of wisdom and interesting details that I have to read each slowly, savoring their depth and meaning. I frequently find myself looking up further information about the Scottish and European history and people to which Smith refers (like the Oberammergau Passion Play - how interesting!) or finding definitions of words that aren't even part of my daily lexicon. It's no wonder these books take twice the time to read as any others! It is always time well spent, however. McCall Smith's humor is also prominent here (my favorite examples? Olive's belief that God's method of punishment is pulling out the offenders fingernails, one by one or Tofu's belief that war is made through tickling!) I absolutely loved this book and felt that it was one of the best in the series. I was a bit sad at the end, though, for it seems that everyone has come to a happy point in their lives (even my favorite little guy Bertie) and I wonder if Smith will end the series here. I truly hope not, for I love every visit to Scotland Street and look forward to many more.

Profile Image for June.
255 reviews
June 17, 2012
"Ranald stroked his chin. 'How about eBay, Bertie? Have you heard of eBay? You could put yourself on it, you know'. Not having a computer, Bertie was unsure what eBay was, and listened attentively as Ranald explained it to him. 'You can get anything on eBay, Bertie. I'm telling you. Trucks, model railways, even swords. Everything. If you've got something to sell, you put it on eBay and they have a sort of auction. You could choose two weeks maybe. That gives people time to decide how much they want to bid'".

Life for poor Bertie doesn't get any easier in this most recent volume of the Scotland Street series. In fact, life is so bad that he decides to put himself up for adoption via eBay - hoping in doing so that a nice family from Glasgow will rescue him from his nightmare of a mother, Irene. When this proves unsatisfactory, Bertie and his cub scout friend, Ranald, then decide to take matters further by going to Glasgow - directly to the doors of the adoption agency....they board the train, but what happens next?

Meanwhile Domenica, recently engaged to Angus, has exciting plans and also meets an old flame; Matthew and Elspeth find life with triplets very difficult and hire an au pair. But still things are not perfect, and - after au pair Anna making a shocking discovery, decide that maybe a move to the plush Moray Place was a hasty one. Bruce continues being Bruce; Lou lands herself two men; whilst Pat just gets messed about. And at the conclusion, there is the now expected dinner party and poetry recital - but what event is this in honour of?

I am really sad to have got to the last (so far) of the Scotland Street books - I've loved every one of them, and hope that Alexander McCall Smith will continue to write some more. Having being brought up among the "Edinburgh bourgeoisie" I can identify several people I have met, in the characters - I especially know several Irenes (unfortunately!). I love the humour and banter (especially that pertaining to the rival city of Glasgow), and the ease with which you can either love or hate (or indeed love to hate) the characters.

Very well done Mr Smith! I look forward to the next instalment!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,749 reviews48 followers
September 29, 2011
It is a testament to the skill of Alexander McCall Smith that he can consistently dash off such thoroughly enjoyable middle class... soap opera? pap?drivel?

I am not quite sure at what point his failure to waste any time whatsoever on checking the factual underpinnings is going to stop me reserving each new volume from the library before it is available. I know Bertie is a precocious child but he is too young for Cub Scouts, Elspeth Harmony is a remarkable woman but I doubt she could secure such normality for the birth and early days of triplets, and as for an Edinburgh social worker inspecting Matthew's baby car seats....

Perhaps more worryingly the snap decisions are now becoming predictable.

But, oooh, the descriptions of Edinburgh interiors (as well as exteriors), the vicarious culinary pleasures, the insight into the irrelevance of London and England, Cyril the dog's joie de vivre and the slightly pompous internal dialogues which are all too familiar to myself...
Profile Image for Robin.
21 reviews
December 27, 2011
Once more, Mr McCall Smith weaves his magic. This series just gets better. The characterisation goes from strength to strength and Bertie at last shows a few weaknesses and gaps in his thought processes which you would expect from one not yet seven years old. This makes him all the more lovable and real. It also raises more than a few chuckles and even the odd belly laugh. His mother is still the brittle super-bitch she always was but even that is beginning to change, albeit ever so slightly and the hapless Stuart, Bertie's henpecked father, is at last shrugging off the mantle of all time super-wimp and this makes the family more interesting and believable.

The great thing about all the characters in a McCall Smith novel is their credibility and above all there is nothing evil in there. No-one who is all black, or indeed, all white, just like life only nicer.

I heartily recommend the book and indeed all his books, to you!
Profile Image for Sara.
408 reviews49 followers
May 16, 2015
This was another great offering in the 44 Scotland Street Series. I liked the focus on the trials and tribulations of the long suffering Bertie and also on Matthew and Elspeth and they're newborn triplets. I also love how distinctly Scottish these books (in particular this one) are...Rather than being a distraction for an American reader such as myself, they add atmosphere and depth.
Profile Image for Susan.
571 reviews1 follower
May 28, 2019
I love listening to this series. They take you away from your life to theirs and always make me feel good. I will really miss all the character's lives when I finish the series.
Profile Image for Kingfan30.
916 reviews2 followers
May 5, 2020
I’ve enjoyed this series from the very beginning, and although I’ve had some large gaps between reading them, it’s always nice to return and see how everyone is. I’m pleased to say I have the next already lined up on the shelves so got no excuses for leaving it so long before catching up again.

So after nearly a year since the last book, it was time to sit down with a coffee and enjoy. I’d like to think Berties mum is lightening up, although I don’t hold out to much hope, his story line did make me smile, even if it was a little far fetched. Poor Matthew and Elsbeth come to grips of being parents of three, although i’m Not sure about the names of the poor boys, it did make me laugh that the mixed them up once the tags were taken off. And has Big Lou finally met someone. Bring on the next in the series.
Profile Image for Elizabeth .
1,013 reviews
March 30, 2022
I adore these books!

Favorite storyline (of course) is Bertie (with the help of his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson) put him up for adoption on eBay.

I cheered when Bertie's Daddy joined the freemasons despite Irene.

We find out that Olive has actually booked her and Bertie's hotel for their honeymoon when they turn 20.

Other favorite storyline: Matthew and his triplets and him mixing the babies up and the new nanny renaming and marking them.

Angus on Bertie: “He represents innocence, and innocence has taken such a profound battering in our times. We have mocked it. We have sullied it. We have put it in intensive care, and frankly, I don’t see how it can survive. And yet here and there one sees flickers of its light – just flickers. And so we know that innocence isn’t entirely dead.”
Profile Image for Judy.
3,184 reviews55 followers
January 16, 2022
I thought I was done with this series -- I've read vols 1-3 -- but I wanted to 'meet' Matthew's triplets and to find out how Bertie managed to put himself up for sale on eBay. Mission accomplished (and it didn't matter that I had skipped vols 4-6).

McCall Smith always shares a lot about his philosophy of life, and I generally enjoy what he has to say, except sometimes it just goes on too long.

On p 242. Angus says, I've always felt that people who said that we should embrace change were arrogant in their assumptions. People can't cope with too much change, you see. Change can hurt. People like the familiar.

If AMS felt this was 11 years ago, I'm sure he would say this more emphatically now.
Profile Image for Pamela.
1,358 reviews
August 10, 2018
Charming and joyous episode in the 44 Scotland Street series. Domenica and Angus are about to get married, Matthew and Elspeth try to adjust to life with their baby triplets, vain Bruce reappears in Pat's life.

All the characters have a place in my heart, but the star of them all is Bertie Pollock. His attempts to get himself adopted are both touching and comic, from his carefully crafted advertisement on EBay to the journey to a children's home in Glasgow that doesn't quite go as planned.

This is a gentle and heartwarming book, with some perceptive observations on the human condition.
Profile Image for Marilyn.
493 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2022
All so prim and proper yet the simplicity versus the complexity of day to day life is what hits you.

I’m not sure why the novel is “Bertie plays the blues”. A good deal of our 44 Scotland st friends are playing the blues. Perhaps they’re behaving like a boy aged 7?

Only mcall-smith could describe a males beige sweater as “distressed oatmeal”.
Profile Image for Kara Budge.
109 reviews2 followers
January 26, 2018
This is such a charming series. I would love for them to become a sitcom.
Profile Image for Maureen.
57 reviews3 followers
September 19, 2019
Thoroughly enjoy all the books in the 44 Scotland Street series. I've been reading them out of order but it doesn't seem to matter. They are so funny and good for light bedtime reading.

To me this series gives the reader a humorous, tongue-in-cheek, slice of Edinburgh life among a rather arty and cultured set of people. In this episode, Matthew and Elspeth are exhausted when they bring home their triplets from hospital and finding it quite difficult telling them apart. Lou has started internet dating and enlists the help of Pat when she meets her date for the first time. Bertie puts himself up for adoption on eBay.

So many intertwined stories and I feel I know the characters so well.
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