In eight days I read three novels. That's unusual and tells me how much time I spend doing crosswords! The third was the seventh in the Isabel Dalhousie Novels series by Alexander McCall Smith. I've only posted on one of the others in the series: book five. The problem with AMS is that the books have such a sameness because they are a continuation of the same core characters; the same places in Edinburgh and its environs; the same mentions of WH Auden; the same frequent use use of quotidian, egregious and palimpsest; the same charming strengths, failings and foibles of the characters; even the plots seem to be a variation on a theme. It's all very comfortable and I love it for that.
It's taken me this long, though, to really appreciate that all that is just a comfortable way of delivering a treatise on what, for want of a better explanation, I shall call philosophy for the non-philosopher. It's all done in bite-size pieces for the mind easily to assimilate. One can accept it as a simple story or one can actually think. The latter goes against the grain with me but this time I actually did (occasionally).
I can never recall reading a full review of any of his books but I must do so at some time to see how anyone actually gives a synopsis which isn't just 'copywriters blurb'. The cover blurb for this book says "... the wife of a trustee of an illustrious school asks Isabel to look into a poison pen letter that makes insinuations about applicants for the position of principal. And what's more, when a pretty cellist with a tragic story takes a fancy to her husband-to-be, Isabel finds herself contemplating an act of heroic and alarming self-sacrifice." Frankly that tells the potential reader nothing about the book: certainly not a thing of value.
AMS is always throwing little teasers into his stories too: "...the rule was almost universally ignored and its authority, anyway, was questionable. Who established the precept anyway? Why not split an infinitive if one wanted to? The sense was easily understood whether or not the infinitive was sundered apart or left inviolate."
There is also a rather interesting discussion on goodness which, for me, touches the issue of whether goodness if there because it is or whether it is there because we are told it is (by, e.g., a religion).
Oh yes. There's a great deal of though to be had amongst all that comfort.....if, that is, that's what one wants.
I like books that can be enjoyed on more than one level, either just as a good, well-told story (which is by no means an easy feat for the author) or on a "deeper" level, such as you have described.ReplyDelete
Have you read any of Frances Garrood's books? They have that multi-layered quality.
I've read them all Meike. I actually did a post here pointing to your reviews.ReplyDelete
I've often mused, that if god were real and a person, he/she'd be Alexander McCall Smith.ReplyDelete
Ok, ok, he couldn't write a working class character if his life depended upon it (Lard, anyone?) - and all of his fiction really is a reiteration of the same type of themes and characters (Isabel could be Precious etc) - and characters are used as ciphers denoting ideas or symbolising classes of people or jobs or...
But I'd trust AMS every time. He has such a gentle honest humanity; a sensitive eye; a forgiving way with him. And I have never got to the end of one of his books without feeling better - as if I had learned something valuable and realised something new about myself or human nature.
Like you I've read them all. I have his 'soon to be released ones' pre-ordered.
Oh dear Yvonne. I agree with every word you said about AMS even though I sometimes find him irritating (the same as with everyone we love I suppose). Anyway I got to the very last word of your comment and then you used one of my pet dislikes - pre-ordered. How, pray please please explain to me, how you can pre-order something. Surely it is either ordered or it is not ordered. Arghhhhhhh. OK so I don't sweat the small stuff and that's very small stuff but.....from you Y. One of my idols?Delete
Hahahaha! Indeed! From me! *hangs head in shame*...Delete
I am an idol with clay feet... :-$ x
Great job. Interesting post.ReplyDelete
We send hugs. Greetings.
Patricia and Daniel. :)
I just read the first in the Isabel Dalhousie series and enjoyed it, and will read the next one. I adore the Mma Ramotswe series (Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency) and my hubby and I have read all in that series published thus far. Smith creates memorable characters.ReplyDelete
Glad I found your book blog. I have one or two but Mr McCallSmith is not a fav of mine. Have you read our Tolsta author Dorothy Ross McIver. Her kindle book Two all - all for one, is bonkers but very enjoyableReplyDelete
Andrea I'm afraid that I don't post on this blog anywhere near as often as I should. I tend to post the AMS books 'cos they are easy. I've not heard of Dorothy Ross McIver: I'll look her up on Kindle.Delete