Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Right Attitude to Rain

The Right Attitude to Rain
by Alexander McCall Smith
Recommended Ages: 14+

In the third of what are now ten or eleven "Isabel Dalhousie novels," the Edinburgh-based editor of The Journal of Applied Ethics, takes an interest in an engaged couple from Texas visiting Scotland over the summer. She suspects Angie is after Tom's money first, and after Jamie, Isabel's good-looking young male friend, second; she is surprised to learn, later on, that Tom is attracted to her, Isabel. But after once again tottering on the line between performing her moral duty to a neighbor and nosing into other people's business, she must wonder whether her hasty judgment was part cause of a near-tragedy.

Meanwhile, Isabel's search for a flat to buy for her housekeeper Grace leads to a misunderstanding about her relationship to Jamie - the scorned ex-boyfriend of her niece Cat, on whom Isabel has long had a crush of her own. But their friendship suddenly flowers into a romance that she has long desired. She spends a lot of time worrying about how people will perceive their affair, since she is the older by 14 years; but everyone seems okay with it except, with surprising vehemence, Cat.

This installment has a lot of interesting developments for the series' recurring characters, including one at the end that comes as a real surprise. But the chief source of pleasure in reading it is to be around Isabel, with her quirky trains of thought, her meditations on proper behavior, her eye for the beauties of Scottish scenery, her ear for good Scottish poetry, her memory of the sordid details of Scottish history, and her nose for trouble. She feels a kinship toward the fox in her garden; she has a fondness for the shy young man who works in Cat's delicatessen; she has an old heartache in her past, and a new appreciation of her "sainted American mother's" flawed humanity; and she has, at last, the ability to overcome her cautious streak and do something spontaneous.

McCall Smith, also the author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and numerous other books, jams a lot of Scotland into this one book, and each book in this series. It goes on in The Careful Use of Compliments.

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