Monday, August 24, 2015

The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

The Novel Habits of Happiness: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel by Alexander McCall Smith --- 257 pages

This is the tenth novel in the Sunday Philosophy Club Series, that has all the charming appeal of leisurely afternoon chats with a very old friend.

Isabel Dalhousie asks herself whether she has a tendancy to be severe in her judgments of others. In particular, she’s having qualms about her negative reaction to a pair of rival philosophers who are intruding on her patch with their scheme to take control of Edinburgh's Philosophical Institute. Then there's her ambivalent relationship with her niece, Cat, who has embarked upon yet another unsuitable romance with a dishwasher repairman.

Isabel simply can’t help getting involved in other people’s problems. Isabel’s husband Jamie has his qualms about this, but he knows that this tendancy is also what he finds so attractive in her.

This time around Isabel has been asked to help the mother of a young boy who believes he had a previous life with another family and expresses a wish to return to them. Isabel finds this unbelievable but, not wishing to further upset the boy's mother, agrees to investigate whether there is any factual basis to the boy's descriptions of the other family and home.

As the reviewer in Kirkus observes,  The Novel Habits of Happiness is "the wooliest of Isabel's ten appearances to date and the one that makes the most decided case for the mental digression as a structural principle" in the writing of fiction. In short, readers either love Isabel or hate her.  There seems to be no middle ground.  Having read and enjoyed all ten books in the series so far, I qualify as an Isabel-lover.

Click HERE to read the Kirkus review in full.

Click HERE to read the New York Journal of Books review by an Isabel lover.

Click HERE to read the Washington Times review by an Isabel hater.

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