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The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (Isabel Dalhousie Series) Paperback – October 2, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews
Book 8 of 10 in the Isabel Dalhousie Series

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Editorial Reviews


“Entertaining and enchanting reading about characters you think you know—and wish you did.” —Las Vegas Review Journal

“Dalhousie [is] back in true form. . . . An endearing, intelligent and kindly character.” —The Charleston Post & Courier

“Readers get to soak up the cozy atmosphere of this Scottish university town and McCall Smith’s gentle good will.” —The Boston Globe
“A real treat.” —The Plain Dealer
“Subtle, surprising, and incisive.” —Sacramento Book Review

"You don't read these books to find out 'who done it,' you read them for the pleasure of spending a few hours following a sensitive, intellectual woman as she roams around Edinburgh speculating ingeniously about everything from moral responsibility to aesthetics and metaphysics." —BlogCritics

“McCall Smith’s latest novel featuring the wise but impish Edinburgh philosopher Isabel Dalhousie. . . . [And] countless small adventures and gentle observations.” —The Toronto Star
“Totally absorbing. . . . Isabel is everything you’d want in a philosopher, but she is also quirky and witty.” —Booklist (starred review)
“You needn’t be a series-long admirer of Isabel Dalhousie to be beguiled by this curious philosopher and casual sleuth. . . . A heroine worth following.” —Publishers Weekly
“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
“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
“In Mma Ramotswe, [McCall Smith] minted one of the most memorable heroines in any modern fiction. Now, with the creation of Isabel Dalhousie, he’s done it again. . . . She’s such good company, it’s hard to believe she’s fictional. You finish [one] installment greedily looking forward to more.” —Newsweek
“Isabel is a force to be reckoned with.”—USA Today

About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is also the author of the beloved bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is also the author of numerous children’s books. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit his website at www.alexandermccallsmith.com.


Product Details

  • Series: Isabel Dalhousie Series (Book 8)
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 8 edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307739406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307739407
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audible Audio Edition
The latest episode of Alexander McCall-Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series continues the meandering life of the protagonist and her circle through the author's beloved hometown of Edinburgh. Much of the novel is spent on Isabel's moment-to-moment examination of what is happening in her mostly tranquil and almost golden life. This, I think, is McCall Smith's core purpose for the series--to call attention to the need to think about each moment of life, take running readings of moral direction and savor the individual moments whenever possible. Socrates' observation about the "unexamined life not being worth living" clearly made an impression on the ethicist author at some point in his life.

But it is legitimate to raise the question of whether this ultra-sensitive approach to living makes for a good story. I would argue that it does. I think what saves Isabel's character from being tiresome in this running pursuit of "the golden rule" is that she constantly comes away from her often minute assessments with a clear and profound gratitude for the good things that have come her way and, less frequently, the understanding and acknowledgement that no one can control every aspect of life.

To be sure, McCall-Smith has mounted a few small challenges for Isabel in "The Forgotten...". The most gritty of them is posed by a semi-poisonous mushroom that ultimately leads to a rift with her niece after first giving Isabel a look into the abyss. Sleuth Isabel also jumps into a missing parent question brought to her by an Australian academic who was given up for adoption as an infant. The affair has a bittersweet but satisfactory resolution that provides its own lesson for living.

"The Forgotten Affairs of Youth" moves at a sedate pace and offers few moments of frisson or conflict, but admirers of the series and of the author's insights and purpose will enjoy this episode as part of the larger saga of Isabel and modern Edinburgh (in my opinion).
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is the eighth book about Edinburgh-based philosopher and occasional sleuth Isabel Dalhousie. Reading this series, I sometimes wonder if Alexander McCall Smith has a little competition with himself when he writes each book, to see if he can get away with even less of a plot than in the previous instalment. Certainly in this instance the main plot is very sparse and takes up maybe a quarter of the book. It's about Isabel helping an Australian philosopher who is tracking to track down her birth father. The remainder of the book is filled with Isabel's philosophical musings, her relationship with the lacklustre Jamie and the obligatory appearances by the usual long-running characters. I know that this is part of the literary comfort food appeal of the series, but I couldn't help feeling that I'd read it all before. Once again Isabel visits Guy Peploe and discusses landscape paintings. Once again Grace reports back on the events from a seance. Once again Brother Fox lurks in the bushes. Once again Cat is attracted to an unsuitable man. Once again Charlie likes unusual food. I hate to admit it, but I got bored.

Writing this, I realise that you could lobby the same accusations of repetitive formulas at the No. 1 Ladies Detective series, but somehow those books seem to hold their charm. I wonder if part of the problem is that none of the secondary characters in this series are terribly interesting or ever seem to evolve in any way. I particular find Isabel's relationship with dreary Jamie to be devoid of any spark (although I was relieved that at least she appears to have given up fretting about whether she is worthy of him).
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Format: Hardcover
There are enough new characters, and twists and turns in their fate to still rank the latest Isabel Dalhousie book at five stars. I also enjoyed an interesting new depth in Isabel's long and deep thought process concerning small and large decisions (always there I assume, just never such a focus before). I wonder how many people would conclude that telling authorities that his/her neice was selling questionable mushroons (even after eating some of the mushrooms & visiting the emergency room), rather than trying to resolve the issue on a more personal basis with the neice first? Even philosophers get it wrong on occasion.

I am frustrated by the continuing strong focus on Isabel's long-time boy friend, now husband, Jamie. Readers know that Isabel is rich, and Jamie is not. Jamie is much younger, and is, to some degree, coasting through life on his musical talents. If Jamie is anything more than a very good looking cipher, the author has not succeeded in convincing me. At least there was some dramatic tension between Isabel and Jamie (was he sexually interested in a another women or man?) in earlier book, now there is none.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read most of the books in this series and this will be my last. Only part of the book deals with the story line the remainder are rambling thoughts on a variety of subjects. I have enjoyed many of the books in the past; but this is so boring that I will not finish it. a waste of money and my time to read it!
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Format: Hardcover
...not really a mystery. My local library shelves this series, along with the author's other series, in the mystery section. I agree with them about the NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series, even though it is very heavy on the 'cozy' and rather light on the 'mystery'. I could even see the mystery categorization of the earlier books in this series, but this - well maybe not. It is a charming story, a very pleasant way to spend a few hours but it just isn't really a mystery.

Isabel has been approached by a friend to assist a woman who is trying to locate her biological parents. Slowly Isabel manages to piece together the circumstances surrounding the woman's birth, circumstances that, of course, lead Isabel once again, to reflect on the philosophical questions of the Greater Good, and whether or not one should always tell the truth, even if it might cause pain. While she is mulling these and other matters Isabel also has to deal with issues on the home front, once again mending fences with her niece Cat, and considering whether it is time to accept Jamie's marriage proposal.

Fans of this series will enjoy reading the latest adventures of Isabel and her close knit circle of family and friends. Those who are not already fans of this series would very likely be bored by this one. It moves rather slowly and, unless the reader already knew the back stories of the characters, would be quite confusing.
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