The Forgotten Affairs of Youth
An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (8)
By Alexander Mccall Smith
(Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780307379184, 272pp.)
Publication Date: December 6, 2011
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ISABEL DALHOUSIE - Book 8
Nothing captures the charm of Edinburgh like the bestselling Isabel Dalhousie series of novels featuring the insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective. Whether investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction’s most richly developed amateur detectives, is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questions, large and small.
In this latest installment of the beloved Isabel Dalhousie series, our inquisitive heroine helps a new friend discover the identity of her father.
Isabel and her fiancé know who they are and where they come from. But not everybody is so fortunate. Jane Cooper, a visiting Australian philosopher on sabbatical in Edinburgh, has more questions than answers. Adopted at birth, Jane is trying to find her biological father, but all she knows about him is that he was a student in Edinburgh years ago. When she asks for Isabel’s help in this seemingly impossible search . . . well, of course Isabel obliges.
But Isabel also manages to find time for her own concerns: her young son, Charlie, already walking and talking; her housekeeper, Grace, whose spiritualist has lately been doubling as a financial advisor; her niece Cat’s latest relationship; and the pressing question of when and how Isabel and Jamie should finally get married.
Should the forgotten affairs of youth be left in the past, or can the memories help us understand the present? In her inimitable way, Isabel leads us to a new understanding of the meaning of family.
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the beloved bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is also the author of numerous children’s books. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and has served on many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit his website at www.alexandermccallsmith.com.
- Spoiler Alert: Do not read further if you want to discover the plot twists on your own. Cat and Isabel talk about whether they find their occupations worthwhile. Isabel admits that she wonders about it all the time, and Cat says that she does not.“I sell cheese and Italian sausages...I don’t have time to think.Most people don’t.They do what they have to do because they need to eat” (24).How does this exchange point to the differences between aunt and niece?What does it suggest about their approaches to life?
Praise for The Forgotten Affairs of Youth
“No matter the philosophical twist [Isabel] puts on her actions, it comes back to doing the right thing. McCall Smith has produced an endearing, intelligent and kindly character, which leads a reader to imagining him as having similarly charming traits, both human and literary.” —Charleston Post and Courier
“Because both Isabel and Jane are philosophers, discussions on the nature of truth also arise—especially when that elusive creature seems to be antithetical to love. In McCall Smith’s trademark voice, these conflicts play out in civil conversation, delivered in a naturalistic style that conveys both these women’s priorities. . . . Readers get to soak up the cozy atmosphere of this Scottish university town and McCall Smith’s gentle good will. . . . Isabel once again proves herself civilized company for cold winter nights.” —The Boston Globe
“This totally absorbing novel has as its primary focus the grip of the past, as Isabel helps a woman given up for adoption find her biological father. Isabel is everything you’d want in a philosopher, but she is also quirky and witty and made more human by the longing she still sometimes feels for a beautiful but bad love in her past. Far from being Utopian, The Forgotten Affairs of Youth is filled with both spires and spikes, like Edinburgh itself.” —Booklist (starred review)
“You needn’t be a series-long admirer of Isabel Dalhousie to be beguiled by this curious philosopher and casual sleuth . . . Isabel believes only the examined life is worth living, and fearlessly so . . . It makes [her] a heroine worth following, even through this quiet, more reflective foray.” —Publishers Weekly
“A look inside the hearts and minds of our friends in Edinburgh . . . A real treat.”
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The well-trod streets and worn stone walls of an ancient, elegant city are in Isabel’s very DNA. . . . Gentle, humorous, charming—Alexander McCall Smith invariably takes an unvarnished but kindly snapshot of modern society and the result, every time, is entertaining and enchanting reading about characters you think you know—and wish you did.”
—Las Vegas Review Journal
Praise for the Isabel Dalhousie series
“A world where humor is gentle, suffering is acknowledged but not foregrounded, and efforts to do good are usually rewarded. It’s a wonderful place to visit, even if we don’t get to live there.”
—The Washington Post
“McCall Smith’s contemporary cozies have proved that crimes need not be punishable by death to provide a satisfying read . . . A genteel, wisdom-filled entertainment.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Endearing . . . Offers tantalizing glimpses of Edinburgh’s complex character and a nice, long look into the beautiful mind of a thinking woman.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“McCall Smith’s talent for dialogue is matched only by his gift for characterization. It’s hard to believe that he could make up a character as complex and unique as Isabel. She is by turns fearless, vulnerable, headstrong, and insecure, but always delightful.”