Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas - what Christmas?


I was all set up to get up early on Christmas morning and gladden your hearts with a Christmassy post. However, as I went to bed on Christmas Eve I was conscious of a raspy throat and an irritating cough and I'm afraid much of the last two days passed in something of a blur. An indignant blur, at that - two days in bed and I couldn't read! Happily for me, by 7pm last night the shivering was replaced by a somewhat hectic warm glow which banished the aches which were making me so miserable, and over the course of the next few hours I demolished Alexander McCall Smith's The Comfort of Saturdays with a mixture of relief and relish. Never mind that the family were eating Peking Goose (yes, really) without me - I could read again.

I'm not sure that I am up to sustained thought on the subject of the book, but I think many of you are familiar with the Isabel Dalhousie novels, and my recommendation is superfluous. Enough to say that Isabel is, as usual, enmeshed in questions of truth and falsehood and in the subtleties of communication between both close friends and partners and our more distant acquaintances. McCall Smith's sly and teasing wit is directed at pretension, at moral dishonesty, and at all the petty foibles that make up the average person (including Isabel who, while not a saint, at least tries hard). There isn't enough humorous writing about the world of philosophy, in my opinion, but McCall Smith does much to redress that lack; I also enjoy the irritations of Isabel's role as the Editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, a nicely observed theme throughout the series (in this book she composes a quite deliciously malicious letter to a contributor) and can hardly help but envy her new role as the Review's owner. And the scrupulous care with which she conducts her relationships is something we should all emulate.

While these are certainly books which fall quite comfortably within the cosy crime genre, Applied Ethics is very much the mainstay of this series, and anyone seeking dramatic murder is likely to be disappointed (although never fear, Rebus was beavering away in the seedier side of Edinburgh until very recently, though I doubt if he and Isabel met at many parties). Ethical discussion is handled with a considered delicacy and lack of jargon which must surely make it readily accessible, and acceptable to a much wider readership. For lovers of Edinburgh, of course, they are a gift, keeping firmly to the "couthy" parts of the city where a lady of a certain age can safely walk alone.

8 comments:

  1. You know you're sick when you can't even read, so I can understand your relief at being over the worst of it.
    McCall Smith's Edinburgh based books (be it the Scotland Street or the Isabel Dalhousie series) are my favourites, great comfort reading.

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  2. Commiserations on missing Christmas (and the Goose!). I love your expression 'cosy crime' and I'm delighted to find there's a new Isabel Dalhousie - how did I miss that!

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  3. Hope you are feeling better. I must read some more McCall Smith myself.

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  4. I'm so sorry you were ill over Christmas and glad you're feeling more like yourself now. It's really awful when you can't even read! I must try Alexander McCall Smith's books next year - after a visit to my son's near Edinburgh I feel I should get to know more about it!

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  5. Perfect recuperative reading. Happy New Year!

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  6. I just love this series because of the way she thinks about everything. I'm like that myself, but I didn't know anyone else was! Even if she is fictional, I enjoy being in her company. Speaking of Rebus - well, really the author, Ian Rankin, is mentioned in one of the books. There's something about him in his garden behind the walled entrance. Sound familiar?? Is it the Isabel books? Anyhow, I so love them. And Scotland Street and Mma Ramotswe, and I look forward to the new one. What a guy!!

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  7. Glad to hear you're feeling better! How awful to be sick over Christmas. :(
    I agree with Cornflower, this is the perfect read for recuperation. I so love all of his books, and look forward to the 3 new ones being published in 09. (he is unstoppable!)

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  8. Sorry you had such a miserable time. Hope you're feeling much better now. And a belated Happy New Year!

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