Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Importance of Being Seven (Novel)

“And how about some chocolate?”
Nobody had ever said that to Bertie before. How about some chocolate? It was not a complex phrase but its power, its sheer, overwhelming sense of gift and possibility filled Bertie with awe. 
Bertie and Irene, Mathew, Angus and Cyrus, and the rest of the gang are back in The Importance of Being Seven, the sixth book in Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series. For those new to the series, each book was originally published in the Scotsman newspaper, in daily installments, over a number of months. (The book form is slightly edited.) This makes for an interesting style. There are a number of short plotlines, as well as some overarching ones. The most beloved character in the series is Bertie, who has a domineering mother and longs to be just a normal little boy. Like the earlier novels, The Importance of Being Seven is often humorous, often philosophical, and at times a tad highbrow.

Briefly, Bertie gets a new therapist, has an adventure with his little brother Ulysses, misplaces his mother, and bonds with his father. Ulysses has a unique response to his mother. The newlywed Mathew and Elspeth start their family in a surprising way. In Bruce’s few appearances in the book, he manages to show his true colors and to cause poor Mathew significant distress. Antonia asks Domenica and Angus to go to Italy, with the intention of making a play for Angus. Cyrus is a minor hero. Pat returns. Big Lou continues to offer support to the group.

Bertie lovers will enjoy The Importance of Being Seven because Bertie finally has some minor triumphs. I found the novel a worthy installment in the series. I thought a few parts were overly intellectual, and I would have liked to read more about Big Lou and Pat. But, there were sections where I was laughing out loud. I appreciated some of the fun plot twists. I enjoyed how McCall Smith is able to say something profound about the smallest of things, like choosing a chocolate bar. When I read these books, I have the feeling that everything will come out alright in the end in my life.

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