Despite inhabiting a great city renowned for its impeccable restraint, the extended family of 44 Scotland Street is trembling on the brink of reckless self-indulgence. Matthew and Elspeth receive startling - and expensive - news on a visit to the Infirmary, Angus and Domenica are contemplating an Italian ménage a trois, and even Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery. But when Bertie Pollock - six years old and impatient to be seven - mislays his meddling mother Irene one afternoon, a valuable lesson is learned: that wish-fulfilment is a dangerous business.
Warm-hearted, wise and very funny, The Importance of Being Seven brings us a fresh and delightful set of insights into philosophy and fraternity among Edinburgh's most loveable residents.
With the arrival of the sixth novel (after Bertie Plays the Blues) in his 44 Scotland Street series, McCall Smith again shows his mastery of light comedy. The residents of 44 Scotland Street are quickly introduced: art dealer Matthew and his new bride, Elspeth; Irene Pollock, husband Stuart, precocious son Bertie, and pretentiously named baby Ulysses; painter Angus Lordie (and his faithful, heroic dog, Cyril); the "private scholar" and freelance anthropologist Domenica Macdonald; plus other, minor characters, notably the philosophizing cafe proprietress Big Lou. The plot lines are many: Elspeth's pregnancy; Angus and Domenica might be falling in love; and Bertie, approaching the titular important age, needs to feel like a boy, though his monstrous but well-meaning mother is too busy introducing him to the poetry of W.H. Auden and creating Oedipal issues. McCall's brilliance lies in his ability to juggle so much in a way that feels seamless, even if the narrative arcs themselves tend to the fanciful. The drama may be slight, but what pulls the reader in is the good natures of (almost) all the characters and McCall's uncanny ability to see their world as they do, and to render their worries, pleasures, and musings with charm, grace, and geniality.