Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Quiet Side of Passion

Title:  The Quiet Side of Passion
Author:  Alexander McCall Smith
Publication Information:  Pantheon. 2018. 304 pages.
ISBN:  0307908968 / 978-0307908964

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "'Gossip?' asked Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher, wife, mother, and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics."

Favorite Quote:  "People who said they were the last person to do anything were usually confessing to something of which they were ashamed - to some flaw. Although not always - some people were the last people to claim to be the last people..."

Confession:  Alexander McAll Smith is an author who has long been on my to read list, but this is the first book I have actually read by him. He is the author of many series including the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Isabel Dalhousie / the Sunday Philosophy Club series.

This book is the twelfth and latest installment in the Isabel Dalhousie series set in Edinburgh, Scotland. It's probably not the best idea to start mid-series, but my understanding is that the books can stand alone. So, this book becomes my introduction to the author, and starting in this manner, I am sure, impacts my reaction to it.

Isabel Dalhousie is in her forties. She is independently wealthy. She is married to a bassoonist; he also happens to be her niece's ex-boyfriend. They have two sons. She works at her leisure as the editor of an obscure publication called the Review of Applied Ethics. (Aside:  Because I wanted to know, I looked it up. Applied Ethics is the application of ethical constructs and theories to a particular field, for example, bioethics, environmental ethics, and business ethics. The question I am left with. What is the purpose of ethics if not to apply them?)

Despite financial security, a husband who shares household responsibilities, a housekeeper, and a job done at her leisure, Isabel seems to have no time for herself. In this book, this results in the hiring of an au pair and an assistant. Yet, somehow, that seems to make things worse and not better.

The plot of this book is about the mother of the friend of one of Isabel's boys. What starts as an attempt to help a single mother turns into the mystery and intrigue of this book. The book is not truly a mystery though just a situation in which Isabel gets involved and feels compelled to fix. However, the plot of this book is almost incidental to the characters, primarily to the character of Isabel.

Unfortunately, I find the character of Isabel Dalhousie very difficult to relate to. Her lifestyle and her complaints about having no time are at time just annoying. First world problems, if you will. She seems to get involved in a lot of things, many of which are really none of her business. Her interference at times is unkind.

To me, she also comes across as somewhat spoiled and somewhat of a pontificating busybody. Her reflections, which seem to comprise most of the book, cover a realm of topics and often seem to go off on tangents. The book seems to have a lot of sub stories, some of which remain unresolved.

Perhaps, starting mid series was not a good idea. Perhaps, this was not the Alexander McCall Smith series to begin with. It was not quite the introduction to the author that I was hoping for, but perhaps, I will give a different book a try. This one was unfortunately not for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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