The Lost Art of Gratitude Paperback – Sep 21 2010
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“Thank goodness...for the deliciously evil Minty Auchterlonie, a pretentious, manipulative and entirely self-absorbed banker acquaintance who is so entertainingly toxic that she’s as appealing as she is appalling.... Delightfully squirm-inducing.” Edmonton Journal
Praise for the Isabel Dalhousie Series:
“A memorable cast of characters…. McCall Smith’s assessments of fellow humans are piercing and profound…. His depictions of Edinburgh are vivid and seamless…. His fans...are sure to embrace these moral peregrinations among the plaid.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Scotland is a village...just as exotic and compelling, in its way, as Botswana. When authors as clever as McCall Smith pursue such parallel tracks, readers are doubly well-served.” The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH is the author of the international phenomenon The 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 professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and was a law professor at the University of Botswana.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The sixth novel in this series about moral philosophy concerns happiness: The book demonstrates that you obtain that delightful state when you appreciate the good parts of your life and realize they are more valuable than your annoyances. Cultivate gratitude and you will be happy.
Unlike the earlier books in this series, there isn't much plot at all. Readers will rejoice in some good news for Isabel Dalhousie in her personal life while groaning over another run-in with professors Dove and Lettuce as well as some unsettling interactions with Minty Auchterlonie. There are two brief scenes with Cat that are a bit trying as well. Your heart will be warmed by some great moments with Charlie and Jamie.
There's no doubt about it that the series loses a lot of steam in this book. Even the wicked Minty didn't succeed in entertaining me very much: She just another grasping person who has to have her way.
I would have graded the book at three stars, but the charming moments were delightful and frequent enough to lift this book into the above-average category for me. Some of the humor is very well drawn, and I could easily imagine the author chortling in his kilt as I read it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
So without the frisson and stress, how does "The Lost Art of Gratitude" (and others in the series) grab the reader's attention and hold it? It may well be that the very stresslessness of living is what makes her story so interesting and enjoyable to the reader. You know that nothing terrible will ever really happen to Isabel and to the ones she loves. Who doesn't fantasize about a world where we are surrounded by beauty and intelligence that will never end? Where babies don't ever have to have their diapers changed nor do they ever get colic or throw tantrums. Where your SO, in addition to being beautiful/handsome and talented, respects you and intuitively connects with your every thought and impulse. And is always yin to your yang.
McCall Smith does provide a few gray clouds for his heroine in "The Lost Art..." in the form of a couple of Isabel's old adversaries--Minty Aucterlonie and Christopher Dove, but they have both been vanquished by Isabel in the past, and there is no doubt that she will prevail against them again.
Ultimately, the greatest pleasure from the book for this reader, was the time and space that Isabel Dalhousie is given to ruminate about the human condition and the interactions of people in ordinary day-to-day situations. This isn't peace in the Middle East or the answer to world poverty, but it is important reflection on how we behave toward each other as residents of shared communities. Hypocrisy and greed are two of the main identified enemies for Isabel, but all human folly is grist for her consideration. Respect and charity are always her goals.
McCall Smith's paragon does have interesting flaws--she is overly considerate and reasonable and therefore unable, at times, to correctly read the baser actions of others. These misunderstandings and her occasional outright cluelessness give the story needed zing and interest.
"The Lost Art of Gratitude" is another gentle and sweet installment in a series that you have to hope will hold McCall Smith's interest and enterprise for many years to come.
If you've read the other books in the series you'll know that they feature an assortment of storylines, most of which seem to take a backseat to Isabel's musings on everyday matters. This book is no different. Minty Auchterlonie asks Isabel to help her with a troublesome problem, Isabel's niece Cat has a new and unsuitable fiance, Brother Fox is injured and needs medical attention and Christopher Dove is scheming to force Isabel to resign as editor of the Review of Applied Ethics.
I truly love this series, but I was so disappointed by this book which felt like it was written "by numbers". One of the things that I like most is Isabel's musings on life and ethics. However this time round they felt forced: formulaic rather than intriguing. Also, McCall Smith seemed to have only limited interest in the plotlines. Cat's relationship felt like it was tucked in as an afterthought ("must involve Cat - oh let's give her another problematic boyfriend and we can just wrap it up by Isabel hearing about what happened"). The Minty storyline was given more prominence but then again it felt like he got bored with it in the end.
If you've loved this series as I do, you should still read the book - while disappointing, it's not completely dreadful. However I'd wait for the paperback. If you're new to the series, don't start here! Start with The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries). It's a series best read in order.
Instead we have the gentle story of a few weeks in the charmed life of Isabel Dalhousie and her relatives, friends and enemies, in which nothing much happens.
The not-so-nice Profs Dove & Lettuce re-appear but are easily and oh-so conveniently foiled again. The main storyline (or what I assumed was the main storyline) involving Minty the investment banker seems largely unresolved by the end of the book, so much so that I had to re-read it to make sure that I hadn't accidentally missed some important plot development by skipping a page. Perhaps the plan is for the next novel in the series to bring the Minty storyline to some kind of closure, or is the lack of closure somehow the point of the novel?
Perhaps "The Lost Art of Gratitude" is an attempt to resposition Isabel Dalhousie series into the serialised format of the 44 Scotland Street series, where we expect to follow the storylines of the characters from book to book. Or perhaps the author has just run out of steam with this group of characters?
If you are an Alexander McCall Smith fan and have read all his other books (as I have), by all means read this book for completeness (I am sure nothing I could say would stop you anyway). If you are new to Alexander McCall Smith, then this isn't the book to start with, try Number One Ladies' Detective Agency.
But the book, whose happenings pass over just a few days, is spelled out in terms of Isabel's thought process. While I found it similar to my own and therefore liked it, most novels are rendered in terms of dialogue. This one has dialogue, of course, but the reader is also privy to all of Isabel's thoughts between her utterances and those of her associates. It took some getting used to that, perhaps the first 100 pages or so. But the thread hangs together, and so in the end did not bog down as I was afraid it might. I would call it a unique writing style, and in the end it held personal resonance for me. (Beware, however, if you are afraid of "thought broadcasting.")
At a child's birthday party, Minty tells her friend Scottish philosopher Isabel Dalhousie, whose not quite two year old son Charlie is at the bash, that she believes someone is after her. Isabel investigates using skills honed by being the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. She questions the most likely suspect Jock Dundas, who believes he sired Minty's son during an affair they had; he wants time with his alleged offspring or he will expose her to her spouse Gordon McCaig. Meanwhile her enemy accuses Isabel of failing to prevent plagiarism at the Review and her lover Jamie asks her to marry him so they and their son Charlie can be a family.
If you seek a bit more action turn to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency tales. However as with Precious's detecting, Isabel is a great focus who holds the intelligent slice of life plot together (see The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday). Character driven, readers will enjoy this sage saga as evil comes in many shapes, but never a Dove as Isabel learns first hand The Lost Art Of Gratitude as no one seems to appreciate her efforts.