In this latest installment of the beloved Isabel Dalhousie series, our inquisitive heroine helps a new friend discover the identity of her father.
Isabel and her fiancé know who they are and where they come from. But not everybody is so fortunate. Jane Cooper, a visiting Australian philosopher on sabbatical in Edinburgh, has more questions than answers. Adopted at birth, Jane is trying to find her biological father, but all she knows about him is that he was a student in Edinburgh years ago. When she asks for Isabel's help in this seemingly impossible search... well, of course Isabel obliges.
But Isabel also manages to find time for her own concerns: her young son, Charlie, already walking and talking; her housekeeper, Grace, whose spiritualist has lately been doubling as a financial advisor; her niece Cat's latest relationship; and the pressing question of when and how Isabel and Jamie should finally get married.
Should the forgotten affairs of youth be left in the past, or can the memories help us understand the present? In her inimitable way, Isabel leads us to a new understanding of the meaning of family.
"A world where humor is gentle, suffering is acknowledged but not foregrounded, and efforts to do good are usually rewarded. It's a wonderful place to visit, even if we don't get to live there." - The Washington Post
"McCall Smith's contemporary cozies have proved that crimes need not be punishable by death to provide a satisfying read... A genteel, wisdom-filled entertainment." - Los Angeles Times
"Endearing... Offers tantalizing glimpses of Edinburgh's complex character and a nice, long look into the beautiful mind of a thinking woman." - The New York Times Book Review
"McCall Smith's talent for dialogue is matched only by his gift for characterization. It's hard to believe that he could make up a character as complex and unique as Isabel. She is by turns fearless, vulnerable, headstrong, and insecure, but always delightful." - Chicago Tribune
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Rated of 5
Cloggie Downunder McCall Smith never disappoints The Forgotten Affairs of Youth is the 8th of the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith. As always, Isabel’s life is full: she has articles to read for the Review if Applied Ethics, an instance of nepotism by Professor Lettuce to deal with, decisions to make about rising journal production costs, and 2½ year-old Charlie has started swearing. Learning of her niece, Cat’s latest liaison and wondering how many boyfriends is too many, Isabel mulls over her own forgotten affairs of youth: this segues neatly into the main plot, tracking down the long-lost parents of visiting Australian philosopher and adoptee, Jane Cooper. This time, however, Isabel’s “intermeddling” is, surprisingly, encouraged by Jamie, even though he wants her to realise she is not always right. Ultimately, she recognises she has once again done the right thing for the wrong reason. Along the way, we are treated to Isabel’s philosophical musings on many diverse subjects: being polite, or saying what you really feel; landscape painters taking artistic licence; the purpose of art; adoption; head lice; which bodily afflictions are too personal to talk about; sarcasm; swearing; wind turbines; jumping to conclusions; religion; children’s literature; dogs dreaming; metaphors; how to end arguments and knowing who you are. Cat is her usual superficial, difficult self; Isabel finds herself in the Emergency Department at the hospital; some humorous crossword clues are conceived; Isabel learns more about Professor from his nephew, Max; and, finally, a long-awaited event occurs. My favourite quote is “It’s very therapeutic for men to iron. Therapeutic for women, that is.” Plenty of gentle philosophy and bon mots like “people seek your advice only to confirm they are doing the right thing”. The dialogue between Isabel and Jamie and between Isabel and Grace is a wonderful source of humour: I almost had a coffee accident reading about Max Lettuce. I wonder, each time I start reading another McCall Smith book, if he can keep up the incredibly high standard he has set: so far he has not disappointed me.
Alexander McCall Smith began the now highly successful 'No 1 Ladies Detective
Agency' series in 1996, after being inspired by the sight of a 'traditionally
built' Botswanan lady chasing down a chicken for a meal. The first book in
the series - 'The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency' was published in the UK
in 1998 but didn't arrive in the USA until 2001.
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