Friday, 30 June 2017

The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith

I haven’t read one of these in a while, but thought it time for a catch-up with Isabel Dalhousie, editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, mother of little Charlie and soon to marry her younger fiancé Jamie. Isabel is comfortably off and in many ways seems to lead a charmed life, but she just can’t help getting involved in the problems of others – usually the kind that require delicate handling.

And so we meet Jane, a fellow philosopher on sabbatical from Australia. Adopted as a baby, Jane knows her mother went to university in Edinburgh, but died a few years later. She has no idea who her father is and wants to see what she can find out. Isabel offers to ask a few discreet questions on her behalf.

Meanwhile Isabel is having a tricky time dealing with her bête noir, Professor Lettuce, who interferes with the editing of the Review, while her niece Cat shows, as usual, poor taste in men. And housekeeper Grace comes up with some surprising information following a séance. All the while there are plenty of opportunities for discussions about the right thing to do, the human condition and other topics of a philosophical nature.

Reading one of these novels is always pleasantly diverting, and instead of the usual crime element of most mysteries, The Forgotten Affairs of Youth focuses instead on piecing together people’s stories and secret motives. The opportunity to ponder your own reasoning in the face of moral dilemmas is also oddly uplifting, while the descriptions of Edinburgh, its history, architecture and cultural life are charmingly evocative.

McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series is perfect for relaxed weekend reading and would suit fans of James Runcie's Grantchester mysteries. The latest in the series, A Distant View of Everything is just out.
Posted by JAM

No comments:

Post a Comment