Tuesday, June 13, 2017

THE BERTIE PROJECT—a perfect summer read!


When the events of the world seem to be spiraling into a sewer, there is no greater calming factor than a quick read novel by Andrew McCall Smith. In his 2016 The Bertie Project, he offers a lovely trip into and through the beguiling lives of the folks around 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh, Scotland

Bertie's mother has returned from her stay in a Middle Eastern harem to reassert her iron-fisted control of Bertie and his father Stuart. Bertie is handling the return to language lessons, yoga, and analysis with equanimity but Stuart has begun an extra-marital fling as a tiny little sign of independence. Meanwhile handsome Bruce is getting a makeover from his new found Australian Amazonian squeeze. Big Lou, the local coffee house proprietor, finds that the MD she has met seems to want her to wear a matron’s uniform  to more than a costume party. And then to top it all off Angus, the artist and part-time poet gets defenestrated in his own home.

Domenica, his wife, handles the philosophical twist on all of these events while the absurdity of the situations puts lip gloss on the faces of all. Serious as it may be, we can’t but help laughing at the predicament of Angus sailing out of a window and landing upside down in a tree for instance. In another comical situation, we have Bruce and Aussie superwoman Clare in a tiny clothing store changing room trying to stuff Bruce into too-tight “hipster” jeans. Meanwhile Bertie moves calmly through the storm without telling a single fib and proving once again that naïveté is charming when coming from total innocence and a generous heart.

Of course it’s old hat for McCall-Smith, but it’s more like a a nice old Harris Tweed cap than a silk topper. The ending once again ties all up and leads to a poem by Angus at one of Domenica's dinner parties. It continues to reinforce that love in the small moments with your friends may be all there is to keep you sane amidst the swirl of hatred and gratuitous violence of the world at large.

Read it if you need a bit of a lift from depression.

Some Additional Nuggets
p.106  We need people to wear their uniforms of identity  from policemen to head waiters. It helps preserve order and confidence in the pillars of civilization.

p 134  We need rituals that make us members of something.  Once again they affirm the order of the universe. "Acts make you pause for thought. . ." but ritualistic performance moves beyond you as an individual and into the corporate. There is no immediate purpose to it other than binding you to others doing it and to the species as a whole.


p 197  The problem with doing the right thing is that it spoils all the fun.

p. 240  The Winston Churchill martini.  "Pour in gin and bow in the direction of France."

Angus’ poem

Innocence glimpsed in others reminds us
Of the time when our own consciences were clear.”


When we lose we think we lose forever, but that is not true.  Think of love at those times because it always returns to say that I was always there but you just didn’t hear me at the moment

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