Reading Challenges

December 21, 2010

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate - an Isabel Dalhousie Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

In his follow-up to The Sunday Philosophy Club, Alexander McCall Smith reprises the character of Edinburgh native Isabel Dalhousie, a philsopher whose moral compass and penchant for falling upon mysterious situations help make the character a tenacious sleuth as well.  Once again, Isabel finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she meets a stranger whose recent heart transplant leads to inexplicable memories that are not his own.  Isabel's conscience dictates that answers must be sought.  Along the way she considers the moral principles of friendship, food and love.  As editor of The Review of Applied Ethics, Isabel's rich interior life guides her decision making process founded on rational ideas and carefully considered outcomes.  

Notes: I appreciate the treatment of memory in McCall Smith's work.  Because Isabel has such an active thought process, we travel with her mind as it wanders the streets of her native city, where each building, shop and street possess some sort of trace, layers of experience that form her personality and personal history.  The pro-Scottish attitude is light and humorous, but with a pride nonetheless for Scotland's literary and historical heros. 

Although the Isabel Dalhousie novels make for light reading, they are also thoughtful books that tap into ideas normally absent from many of their counterparts (that just might jumpstart a few brains into considering ethics in a practical sense!).  On that note, in the following interview McCall Smith addresses the idea of moral proximity that defines Isabel's approach to life.  Stylistic themes are briefly discussed as well (such as the lack of crime scene descriptions that render them all the more powerful, etc.):

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