Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
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).
88 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
88 of 106 people found the following review helpful
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). Also, Mme Ramotswe's Botswana always feels like a magical landscape, but current day events sneak into Dalhousie's Edinburgh and sit uneasily with her old fashioned lifestyle and world view.

I adored the early books in this series and there are occasional glimpses that all is not lost, but this is overall a disappointment. The series badly needs a shake up and sadly, this book does not deliver that.
1818 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2011
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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 3, 2012
...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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2011
I think it's time McCall Smith wrapped up this series. I had high hopes for the first couple of volumes and enjoyed the Edinburgh setting, but the books are going nowhere fast. The plots have become paper thin and repetitive and the characters seem immune to development. And Isabel Dalhousie is like no philosopher I've ever met -- her musings would be more appropriate for a philosophy undergraduate rather than the editor of a scholarly journal.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2013
I have read almost everyhting that Alexander McCall Smith has written because I enjoy his stories, his characters and his style. But this book fell short for me. Isabel, the consummate philosopher, was given too much thinking and cogitating to do but not much action. I just found myself becoming impatient with the story and was glad when I finished which has not been my experience with the rest of the Dalhousie novels.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 17, 2011
I like this series my Alexander McCall Smith and have read each one in the series so far. This book was good but not as interesting (at least to me) as those previous. I found this one much more philosophic. Although Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher by trade, the writing of this book was much more about philosophical thought and moral contemplation than any of the previous books. I always thought that there was a mystery at the very bottom of Smith's books in this series (even though they are not murder mysteries, they are mysteries all the same - only about people's lives, both past and present). This story is indeed about the forgotten affairs of youth. Isabel becomes acquainted with another philosopher from Australia who is there in Scotland to find something out about her mother and her father. Her mother was pregnant, never told the father, and had the child adopted out and was taken to Australia. Isabel is contemplative about what is morally the right thing to do when she does find her father but fears that without a DNA test, the relationship is based on a lie. This is really the gist and fiber of the story. There are other examples in the novel about when it is right or wrong to tell the truth, one being an unfortunate mushroom incident. In the end, although Isabel seems at odds with the end results, Smith does come full circle with the story as Isabel's lover and her finally tie the knot. I think fans of Smith's Dalhousie series will indeed find the story somewhat comforting, although not really all that exciting.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2011
Alexander McCall Smith's novels featuring Isabel Dalhousie are exercises in ethics. What is a true parent? Must one give a warning to someone who one knows won't take it anyway, a warning that might stave off a great deal of pain? What is paramount, the desires of blood kin or civic duty? Is there karma? What is love, and can obsession be love or love obsessive? Are sins less venal when committed by the easily led than by those who had the will to resist? As other reviewers have noted, the mystery in The Forgotten Affairs of Youth is neither urgent or earth-shattering. The novel is almost a series of vignettes strung together; however, each inspires interest and reveals a great deal of unconventional thinking. Does Isabel overthink things? Doubtless, as I'm sure she would be the first to admit. Yet, are her musings entertaining and thought-provoking? Again, doubtless.

While not as gripping -- can one even use that word in connection with Isabel Dalhousie? -- as The Sunday Philosophy Club, The Forgotten Affairs of Youth won't disappoint true fans of Isabel and her friends.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2012
Reading McCall Smith is to savor dessert. I don't understand how anyone who is a constant reader of this author could be disappointed. McCall Smith is, himself, a philosopher (among many other talents) - so Isabel's ponderous thoughts about every action and conversation are perfectly natural, especially in her chosen profession. The language and descriptions of thoughts and relationships are beautifully done,and I was sorry to see this installment end. The author remains faithful to the characters and story line, in a simple and elegant fashion.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (9)
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (9) by Alexander McCall Smith (Paperback - July 2, 2013)
$13.15

Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers (44 Scotland Street)
Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers (44 Scotland Street) by Alexander McCall Smith (Paperback - February 17, 2015)
$11.64

The Charming Quirks of Others: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (7)
The Charming Quirks of Others: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (7) by Alexander McCall Smith (Paperback - November 1, 2011)
$10.52
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.