November 10th, 2009


Back to Back McCall Smith

Thanks to the wondrousness that is currently my library, I’ve been able to read the two latest offerings from Alexander McCall Smith (though I’ll probably buy them anyway, to match the rest). First, The Lost Art of Gratitude. *L
‘Detective series’ is a somewhat misleading description of the Isabel Dalhousie novels. Rather than page-turning mysteries we have slightly odd happenings which bother people and which Isabel feels obliged to investigate. There’s less description of events than there is stream of consciousness writing, in which Isabel’s thoughts wander, even while she’s on the phone or talking to someone else. It’s all very agreeable because she is an intelligent woman with an agreeable, indeed enviable lifestyle. Strolling around Edinburgh and its environs is also very pleasant. If I have a niggle with this particular title it’s the constant harping on about Scotland and Isabel’s pride in her son Charlie’s Scottishness (he even has a baby kilt). ‘What?’ you may say, ‘It is set in Edinburgh after all.’ Yes, but if I were to write a book about the wonderfulness of being English, someone having ‘English eyes’, for goodness sake, people would suspect me of BNP sympathies. 'Snot fair.

As usual, it’s the basic decency of the McCall Smith world which appeals. I liked this about books:

‘Children like simple tales,’ said Isabel.
‘And we don’t?’
Isabel thought about this. It was just too easy to say that adults did not like stories that were simple, and perhaps that was wrong. Perhaps that was what adults really wanted, searched for and rarely found: a simple story in which good triumphs against cynicism and despair. That was what she wanted, but she was aware of the fact that one did not publicise the fact too widely, certainly not in sophisticated circles. Such circles wanted complexity, dysfunction and irony: there was no room for joy, celebration or pathos. But where was the fun in that?

I think a lot of us are looking for that sort of fun sometimes.

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