Isabel Dalhousie: The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith
|Isabel Dalhousie: The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith
|Category: General Fiction
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng
|Summary: The eighth in the Isabel Dalhousie series is thankfully back up to standard after the disappointment of the seventh. Fascinating ponderings and the day to day life of Isabel and her friends in Edinburgh.
|Date: September 2011
|Publisher: Little Brown
|External links: Author's website
My husband is soon to take a work trip to Edinburgh and I am very jealous. Mainly because thanks to AMS' novels I feel like I already know the city, and I would love to walk in the footsteps of Isabel or any of the characters from his other series, 44 Scotland Street. So, to console me, I have turned to the latest in the Isabel Dalhousie series. I must admit, I was a little wary at the beginning since I was quite disappointed with Isabel's seventh outing, The Charming Quirks of Others, and I wondered what I would do if this one also proved to be a letdown. Fortunately, it wasn't, and dear Isabel is back in sparkling form!
I am reasonably sure that if you're reading this you already know who Isabel is, and if you don't you should just go back to the beginning of the series right now because otherwise, you won't have the faintest idea what I'm talking about! Have they gone...? Right then. So, we're back with Isabel once again. Charlie has grown up to the grand old age of two and a half, and Cat has passed over the suitable boyfriend of the last book (of course) and is on the verge of a relationship with a rather unsuitable young model. Meanwhile, Isabel is inveigled into helping another stranger with a problem. This time it's a woman from Australia who was adopted as a baby and is asking for Isabel's help in tracing her Scottish parents. Professor Lettuce is up to his old tricks, and Jamie is still talking about marriage...
After seeming rather sorry for herself in the last book, Isabel is, fortunately, much happier here. She feels more balanced again, and much more content in her life which was a relief to read. I didn't feel uncomfortable or worried about her, and I was just able to enjoy her silly thoughts and the situations she encounters. I enjoyed the humour of the situation with Cat - not only with her falling for her new, temporary assistant but also there's an interesting food poisoning issue that crops up! I also felt that the 'mystery' within this book, that of the Australian lady's birth parents, was well written and whilst there are no great twists and turns there don't need to be because it's the human drama at the heart of the situation that is of interest.
Charlie the wonder child is now attending playgroup and, amazingly, gets into a bit of trouble over something. I'll let you read it to find out exactly what happens! And I was greatly relieved to see Isabel and Jamie's relationship in a much more stable situation. There is a sweet part when Isabel is just getting involved in Jane's search for her parents and is telling Jamie all about it. Usually, he sighs and berates her for interfering in other people's lives but this time he says she must get involved and when she asks why he says Because I've decided to try to see things through your eyes...I try to think of - what is it you call it? - moral proximity. And once I do that, I realise that you have no alternative, Isabel. You have to help this woman. They have such a sweet moment together, with Jamie understanding just who Isabel is and why she acts as she does, and she realising how lucky she is, how blessed her life is.
There are the usual trails of Isabel's thought-processes, humour with her housekeeper, Grace, and a long-awaited event that finally happens...The series is back to its usual, comfortable self, and the ending is just lovely. If you're already a fan, go out and buy it because it won't disappoint! I'm already looking forward to reading the next one!
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: Just in case you've missed it, the latest in the 44 Scotland Street Series was published this year too - Bertie Plays the Blues.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Isabel Dalhousie: The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon.com.
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