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The Forgotten Affairs of Youth

An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (8)

By Alexander Mccall Smith

The Forgotten Affairs of Youth
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  • Published in USA  Dec 2011,
    272 pages.

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Cloggie Downunder (03/12/12)

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.
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