What a sweet little story this is. It begins with Isabel Dalhousie lying in bed considering things because she is a light sleeper. As her mind progresses through the disjointed thoughts of all those who awaken in the wee hours of the morning, she reaches some astonishing truths about the human condition before falling back to sleep at last. The next morning she hears her two-year-old, Charlie, in the next room. While dressing Charlie she begins to plan her day, a Friday, one of her favorites so that she, her son and his father, Jamie, can have lunch together in town, town being Edinburgh. While at lunch Isabel is delighted to hear Charlie speak his first word, which is ‘olive’. But no sooner does Charlie begin to speak than an acquaintance of hers appears in the café. Isabel invites Minty Auchterlonie and her toddler son Roderick to sit with them even though she has doubts about Minty. While the lunch seems to have been entirely by chance, it turns out that Minty has designs of her own. She invites Charlie to Roderick’s birthday party coming up in a few days, and then while at the party she enlists Isabel’s help in dealing with a former lover, Roderick’s father, but not Minty’s husband, whom she says is blackmailing her. The man apparently wants custody of or at least visiting rights for his son. Isabel, always trying to be helpful, commits to doing what she can. Meanwhile Isabel has to defend herself against her nemesis, the previous editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, the position she now holds. Professor Dove has accused Isabel of plagiarism, which threatens her reputation and her employment. So Isabel has her hands full, with Charlie and Jamie, Professor Dove, her niece, Cat, and Minty Auchterlonie’s affairs. There’s also the regular visitor to the garden, Brother Fox, whom Isabel has been feeding roasted chicken, much to the dismay of all those who regard Brother Fox and his kin as varmints.
Alexander McCall Smith tells his tales deftly. There is a quietness to it all and I particularly like Isabel’s rambling into wordplay, which happens throughout the book, not just in the wee sleepless hours of the morning. This is the first book I’ve read in the Isabel Dalhousie series, but I certainly will add it to my list of good reads.
The Lost Art of Gratitude, by Alexander McCall Smith
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