Once upon a time philosophers dealt with practical questions of ethics: When is it appropriate to lie? When can you take another life? When may you be silent while another makes a mistake? Alexander McCall Smith returns us to those musings, dressed up in the clothing of a divorced woman, Isabel Dalhousie, dealing with her personal life and her profession as the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. For those who like some intellectual depth with their stories, this series will be most rewarding. For those who want big laughs and ironies that make you instantly smile, go back to The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
This is the third book in the series. In the prior books, Isabel shows herself to be a woman who likes to take her time to examine her behavior . . . before acting . . . and usually kicks herself when she doesn't let her intellect lead her. While being concerned about her niece, Cat, Isabel mostly is disappointed that Cat has rejected the handsome and worthy Jamie for a series of less good marital candidates. But Isabel has taken solace in keeping Jamie for a friend, while Jamie pines for the uninterested Cat.
When it rains, is that a blessing . . . or bad luck? In Scotland where it usually rains, you'd better take the former attitude. That's the theme of this story: How should you handle the unexpected?
The story moves forward on a number of fronts: Isabel develops an interest in an odd couple of Americans who turn out to be friends of her cousin; Cat has a new man in her life; Isabel and Jamie seem to drift closer together than either expected; Isabel helps Cat find some new help; and Isabel sets out to buy a home for Grace, her housekeeper.Read more ›
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A Matter of HeartMarch 9 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
The Right Attitude to Rain (2006) is the third novel in the Isabel Dalhousie series, following Friends, Lovers, Chocolate. In the previous volume, Isabel spent a bit of time thinking of Auden and Brother Fox. With a little help from Jamie, she tracked down the donor of Ian's heart. And she brought about a sense of resolution between a father and his late son.
In this novel, Isabel is concerned about her interventions into others's affairs. Several people, particularly Jamie, have chided her for going over the line into nosiness. However, she has convenient excuses for noticing a foreign couple park their car in a clearly marked no-parking zone and for following them into the Scottish Gallery. As it happens, she is destined to encounter this couple often during the next few weeks.
Speaking of intervening, Isabel is looking for an apartment for Grace, her housekeeper. Isabel's father has asked Isabel to take care of Grace and she has decided that this request means that she should provide a place for Grace to live. Isabel asks Jamie to go with her to inspect an apartment close to his home.
Isabel immediately takes a liking to the seller, Florence Macreadie, and Florence seems to like Isabel. Florence also seems to approve of Jamie. Florence has inherited a house in Trinity from her aunt and must leave her long-time residence. Yet she is not enjoying the flood of nosy viewers who have come into her home.
Cat has another boyfriend, Patrick, and Isabel is determined to hold back her opinions of the man. Isabel is told about Patrick by Eddie, Cat's only employee, who seems to approve of him. Isabel soon learns that Patrick is dominated by his mother, whom she knows slightly, but she virtuously refrains from mentioning her growing doubts on the relationship to Cat.
Isabel has houseguests during the summer. Cousin Mimi McKnight and her husband Joe have fled the Dallas heat and are visiting Isabel for a few weeks before moving on to a house in Oxford. They are seldom within the house during the daylight hours. Joe is researching the history of adoption in the libraries and Mimi is haunting bookstores to find works by Arthur Waley.
In this story, Isabel spends too much time thinking about the morals of various subjects innocently introduced by various acquaintances. She is personally concerned about her relationship with Jamie. Of course, Jamie loves Cat, but her niece has spurned all his advances. Now Isabel is free to wonder about her own feelings for the much younger -- fourteen years -- and very good looking man.
Naturally, the Review of Applied Ethics takes up some of her time and lots of her mentality. She has a young professor on her editorial board who asks many questions. Another member of the editorial board submits an incoherent article on "The Ethics of Tactical Voting" that requires extensive editing. At least it gives her some outlet for her obsessive cogitations.
This story is more personal than the previous novels, with few elements of a mystery story. Actually, the author has always dealt more with the daily mental life of Isabel Dalhousie than with her investigations into illegal acts. There are some improper activities occurring in this novel, but they are almost irrelevant to the main plot.
Highly recommended to McCall Smith fans and to anyone else who enjoys tales of a highly intelligent woman with independent means and a rather old-fashioned approach to life and romance.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
These keep getting better!Feb. 28 2007
Gen of North Coast Gardening
- Published on Amazon.com
Finally, Isabel starts acting like a 40 year old instead of like an elderly lady! This book really started showing us how likeable and interesting Isabel really is, and for that I am grateful. I found the first book in the series rather dull, liked the second book a lot better, and finally really enjoyed this one.
Isabel develops a romantic interest (I won't spoil it for you!), has some visitors from America, and generally has some interesting and fun times. The plot, as in the previous books, has little enough to it that I don't want to say much more, but the philosophical musings and thoughts on everyday life are charming and a pleasure to read, and I was thrilled to see her character blossom so nicely!
Can't wait for the next one.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
End of the line for meApril 20 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
This book was a great disappointment. I don't know what I expected after the very good second book, but it certainly was not this. The Right Attitude to Rain reads like a long, ponderouss, unfunny episode of Seinfeld. For all of its credentials, it is essentially a book about nothing- except lusting after a younger man.
While I am happy to see that this book was subtitled "An Isabel Dalhouse Novel" instead of "Mystery", I think this book would have been more appropriately labeled "Romance", since the sole purpose of the book seemed to focus on when and how Isabel would get together with Jaime.
Unfortunately, this book was not much of a romance, either. I could not relate to it on any front. I am actually the same age as the main character, married to a younger man and without children. I am an inquisitive and educated person. I have been to Scotland and have met many people like the ones described in the book.
Despite all of the similarities, this book just rings false to me. This new relationship between Jaime and Isabel(friends with benefits?) is not in the least bit romantic. Isabel has to be the worst "detective" ever, frequently and repeatedly jumping to wrong conclusions throughout the series. For someone big on examining the morality and ethics of others, she is remarkably blind to her own. Whether Cat had rejected Jaime or not, surely an affair with a man who is the ex-lover of one's niece and closest living blood relative warrants some kind of moral/ethical debate. It is shocking to me that Isabel was taken aback at Cat's reaction to her new relationship with Jaime. I would have been suprised if her response had been anything other than it was. I don't think it should have taken a philosopher to anticipate that.
Isabel's constant pining over Jamie, and his seeming almost indifference to her, really wore on me. I forced myself to finish this book. A very sad end to what had been a good series. I know another book follows this one, but I will not be reading it.
I have had enough of the self-absorbed and self-righteousness musings of Isabel Dalhousie.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A pleasant read, but no longer a mystery seriesJuly 10 2007
Katherine M. Lariviere
- Published on Amazon.com
I've very much enjoyed the books in this series, but we've left the Sunday Philosophy Club Mystery series and entered the realm of Isabel's philosophical musings. That's not in and of itself a bad thing, but it's a change of pace. Part of the change are strange changes of detail: Isabel no longer thinks of herself as a "middle aged spinster" (as she did in the first book), but there are other changes that just become inconsistencies. In this book, Jamie has his apartment because he inherited it from an aunt; in the first book, we're told his parents bought it for him. In this book, Isabel's parents met in New York while her father was a student at Columbia. In earlier books, he studied at Harvard. What is consistent is that Isabel still thinks Jamie is beautiful, in a Mediterranean sort of way.
Most important is the change in tone. I still relish Isabel's deeply ethical approach to life and McCall Smith's writing, but this book feels like it should be viewed separately from the other books. It delves more deeply into Isabel's inner life, while dealing only superficially with her relationship with other. Even her affair is given a very cursory treatment.
If what you enjoyed about the previous Isabel Dalhousie books were the interplay of philosophy and genuine mysteries, then this book may leave you unsatisfied. If you really relished the philosophical discussions, then read on, and ignore the fact that the only "question" (not even a mystery) is of the nature of "does he like me."
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The Ethics Of The Older WomanJan. 1 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Once again, Smith has produced a stunningly glorious novel that spends its time dealing with both human relationships and ethics; as Smith is wont to do. In a finely crafted piece Smith examines the attitudes toward a relationship between a man and a woman who are separated by 14 years. This plot element is one that Smith has carried over three books now and had to be resolved for the sake of ethical clarity.
With particular finesse, Smith weaves in both the American perspective and the Scottish perspective because "Isabel" is half each and Smith mixed in some visiting American relatives from Texas. He thus created an opportunity to mix and match cultures in this ethical question. The resolution of that question I will leave to the reader as he or she consumes this finely created addition to the "Isabel Dalhousie" series of Smith books.
As always, Smith is clear, with fine and illustrative human experience examples to point out the fine points of ethics, especially as it mixes with real society and real human beings. Nonetheless, his messages are clear and his style is engaging. The book is recommended to all readers of Smith's former works and anyone looking for a quick and interesting take on the societal position of older women being involved with younger men.