Vitabubooks | Yewa S. Holiday reviews The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith


Yewa S. Holiday went to see Alexander McCall Smith at this year’s Hay Festival of Literature and Arts. She found him, in life, "to be much as he is in his books: amusing even when serious, courteous and charmingly old-fashioned." Below is a short review from Yewa for Vitabubooks.

I first got to know McCall Smith’s writing through The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, a warmly wise series set in Botswana. [Then] quickly moved through many of his other books from the hilarious 2½ Pillars of Wisdom to the more sedate Sunday Philosophy Club series to the 44 Scotland Street books.

The Importance of Being Seven, Alexander McCall Smith’s sixth novel in this set, is charming, entertaining and funny with the undertow of wisdom and ethics which seem to course through all of McCall Smith’s work. The books center on the characters who live in the flats at 44 Scotland Street and their relationships with friends, family and the wider world.

Have the newlyweds, Matthew and Elspeth Harmony, really just bought a flat whose roof is supported only by a Chinese cabinet? What will anthropologist Domenica (Varghese) MacDonald and artist Angus Lordie meet with in Italy? Is Big Lou contemplating cosmetic surgery? What will the terrifyingly irrepressible Irene Pollock have to say to Dr. St. Clair?

Irene Pollock’s long-suffering son, Bertie, is a favorite character, with whom we can all identify--we were all once six years old. Bertie’s baby brother, Ulysses, begins to form a decisively stubborn character and Bertie has noticed his brother bears an extraordinary likeness to Dr Hugo Fairbairn, a noted child psychotherapist.

The Importance of Being Seven will introduce you to the richness of life lived in Scotland Street and make you want to go back and read all the other 44 Scotland Street books.

McCall Smith is adept at drawing us into the inner world, not only of adults but also of children and even animals. This portrait of a fragment of Edinburgh life speaks to us all, whoever and wherever we are, of the importance of place and friendship.

Yewa S. Holiday is a writer. She was born in Bo, Sierra Leone, in 1962 and moved to the U.K. when she was six. She has had a variety of jobs from working as an English teacher in Japan and Spain and selling hats at Camden Market to working as a lawyer and civil servant. She has studied both at Cambridge and Sussex Universities.

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