Monday, November 19, 2012

Alexander McCall Smith, Friends, Lovers, Chocolate

How does he do it? 

Alexander McCall Smith has a way with women that I can’t help but admire. Not a tom-cat way, not the way of a lothario; rather, he has a way of creating women in fiction that makes us like them right off. We—or I at least—find myself empathizing with his heroines, with the small and large battles they must fight in life, winning some and losing others, at times triumphant and other times feeling rather failures. Within the confines of this 276 page novel, we get to further know and appreciate Isabelle Dalhousie, the Scottish woman who edits The Journal of Applied Ethics

After creating the delightful Precious Romotswe and her world, you would have thought Smith could have said “good enough”. (If haven’t read any of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books or you haven’t seen the delightfully faithful HBO television production of some of the books, you have cheated yourself.) Instead, Smith has created the delightful Isabel Dalhousie, a single woman in her early forties who lives in Edinburgh, is independently wealthy, and who loves fine music and friends. She is not a detective, but she does get involved in things. In this book, she has a chance encounter with the recent recipient of a transplanted heart that leads her to new places and new thoughts. 

Assuming you read Iowa Guru in the Pink City, you know that I purchaed purchased Friends, Lovers, Chocolate on Saturday (examine the photo closely) and finished by Monday night. The writing is fine, but not difficult. McCall Smith’s style is workman-like, but his narrative touches lightly here and there, leaving little morsels of thoughtfulness revealed by Isabel’s actions and reflections. And while Isabel is a philosopher, one needn’t have any background to follow her thoughts or musings, just an appreciation of her inquisitive mind, much like Isabel’s housekeeper Grace keeps toward Isabel and her world. 
Like chocolate, one is tempted to gorge on this fare, but a rational mind, and further reflection (worthy of Isabel), prompt me to wait before acquiring the next book in the series, all in order to savor the delight that I expect to find in each one. Like a fine chocolate.