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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-warming and thought-provoking
This is the sixth novel in The Sunday Philosophy Club Series that follows the life and work of Isabel Dalhousie. It was this series that first introduced me to McCall Smith's books and I'm now a fan of this and the 44 Scotland Street books. The Lost Art of Gratitude starts at the point that ended the previous novel with Isabel living with Jamie and their 18 month old...
Published on 4 Sept. 2009 by Bluebell

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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is Alexander McCall Smith getting bored with the series?
The Lost Art of Gratitude is the 6th novel in the "Sunday Philosophy Club" series by Alexander McCall Smith, which centre on philosopher and occasional amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie. The book picks up only 2-3 months after "The Comfort of Saturdays" - Isabel and Jamie's son Charlie now being 18 months old.

If you've read the other books in the series you'll...
Published on 10 Oct. 2009 by Julia Flyte


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is Alexander McCall Smith getting bored with the series?, 10 Oct. 2009
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
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The Lost Art of Gratitude is the 6th novel in the "Sunday Philosophy Club" series by Alexander McCall Smith, which centre on philosopher and occasional amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie. The book picks up only 2-3 months after "The Comfort of Saturdays" - Isabel and Jamie's son Charlie now being 18 months old.

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". It's a series best read in order.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-warming and thought-provoking, 4 Sept. 2009
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the sixth novel in The Sunday Philosophy Club Series that follows the life and work of Isabel Dalhousie. It was this series that first introduced me to McCall Smith's books and I'm now a fan of this and the 44 Scotland Street books. The Lost Art of Gratitude starts at the point that ended the previous novel with Isabel living with Jamie and their 18 month old son, Charlie. She still works at home as the editor of a philosophical journal and the story is full of her musings over moral issues and how they are tackled by philosophical analysis. I'm not a fan of philosophy as a discipline, but the author brings the subject to life and meaning for me by using real-life dilemmas experienced by Isabel in these novels. This more esoteric aspect of the novels is woven in a natural way into the day-to-day happenings in her life: a life full of love, happiness and kindness. McCall Smith writes with great charm, sensitivity and understanding of human feelings and has a gift for describing the feelings of women.

As with the other novels in this series the domestic idyll of a comfortable life in a nice area of Edinburgh are enlivened by Isabel being asked to solve a serious problem for someone else. The "problem" in this novel leads to some twists and turns as to who is the villain.

There's an added pleasure in these books if you're familiar with the streets, shops and social structure of Edinburgh that form the back-drop to the books.

Each book stands alone as a good read, but I think there is added enjoyment if you follow the chronological sequence and follow the lives of all the characters from book to book:
Book 1: The Sunday Philosophy Club
Book 2: Friends. Lovers, Chocolate
Book 3: The Right Attitude to ain
Book 4: The Careful Use of Compliments
Book 5: The Comfort of Saturdays
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe I'm ungrateful..., 7 Sept. 2009
By 
Alun Williams "mathematician manqué" (Peterborough,England) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed all the previous Sunday Philosophy Club books, and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels, but have been a little disappointed by the latest episodes in both series. In this latest instalment of Isabel Dalhousie's life all the usual ingredients are present: Cat has a new unsuitable boy-friend; Isabel interferes (this time on behalf of someone we met in the first novel in the series - Minty Auchterlonie); Isabel defeats the latest machinations of Christopher Dove; and, as ever, Isabel's mind frequently wanders off into philosophical speculation at the oddest of moments. But there is nothing really new, and I'm beginning to feel that I'm reading books that are being written to fulfil a contractual obligation rather than because the writer has something to say. This is still a well-written book - and perhaps if this had been only the second or third in the series I'd have given it four stars, but I feel something is lacking: reading this I was struck that I had no idea what time of year it was supposed to be, and also by how unbelievably cosy Isabel's life is: I'm not after EastEnders (one of the things I like best about Alexander McCall Smith's books is how people do generally manage to sort out their problems with one another peacefully), but it wouldn't be beyond the bounds of possibility for Isabel to have to deal with the occasional disagreement with Jamie, or a tantrum from Charlie, or for Grace the house-keeper to need some time off work (or maybe some of Isabel's wealth could have disappeared in the credit crunch). Isabel would be a more interesting character if she wasn't so darn reasonable all the time.
One of the characters in this book is a tight-rope walker. I'm sure any writer who returns to the same characters again and again must find it hard to strike the right balance between livening up a series (and risk alienating readers) by disrupting the world he has created in earlier books, and sticking to a winning formula so long that it becomes stale. I'm afraid Alexander McCall Smith seems to be very much in danger of the latter. Perhaps he hasn't quite fallen off the rope in this book, but I feel he needs to take some risks in the next novel in this series if he wants the Sunday Philosophy Club series to remain interesting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Lack of Drama, 19 Oct. 2009
By 
R. J. Hobson (London, England) - See all my reviews
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A deeply unsatisfying novel. The life of Isabel Dalhousie, the attractive lead character of the "Sunday Philosophy Club" series, is once again full of happiness with only a couple of hiccups to worry about. Fine for Miss Dalhousie, but probably not so for the reader, who craves some sort of conflict or drama, sadly not in evidence here. The only drama is provided briefly by the splendidly named Minty Auchterlonie, but even the machinations of this character do not amount to much and the resolution is perfunctory. A possibly interesting story-line involving Eddie, Cat's assistant in the delicatessen, who could have been the attacker of a woman in Morningside, is soon dropped. The book is very well-written - no novel by McCall Smith could be otherwise - and I read it quite quickley just to see what happens next. Sadly, in this case, very little happens next.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I agree with the other 3 star reviews!!, 2 Nov. 2011
Not a lot happens in any of these novels, but the content has dropped to almost zero in this one. It becomes hard not to skim read after a while. I'm starting to find Isabel dull, and I must admit I've never found Jamie anything BUT dull.

I would not recommend this series - let alone this book - for anyone new to Alexander McCall Smith. Read the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency or 44 Scotland Street. The characters are far more vibrant and interesting - oh for a colourful character like Angus Lordie or Bertie Pollock in this series! Instead they are all in soft greys and blues like the Pentland hills he is so fond of describing...
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4.0 out of 5 stars An enviable life, 12 Nov. 2011
By 
Blue in Washington "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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You have to believe that author Alexander McCall Smith has a special fondness for his main character in "The Sunday Philosophy Club" series, Isabel Dalhousie, for he has created for her a seamlessly agreeable life. She is intelligent, well-educated, well-to-do and beautiful. She has a handsome, sensitive and younger fiance, who has fathered her beautiful and well-behaved son. Isabel loves her "job" as a moral philosopher and editor of a scholarly journal and lives in a historic mansion in Edinburgh, a city that fits her like a glove.

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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Count Your Blessings and the Annoyances Don't Seem to Matter So Much, 28 Oct. 2009
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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"And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant." -- Jonah 4:6

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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just crawl up under a blanket and enjoy!, 15 Mar. 2011
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I loved the book. Nothing really major happens but it's through and through cozy. Once again, Isabel Dalhousie gets problems with two schemers from the past that once tried to get her fired from being an editor of the philosophy magazine she so much loves. That time she bought the magazine and fired the two instead. This time she has to be really sly and fight them with the same weapons they try to use against her and/or by using their weaknesses. Everything always sorts itself out in these books.

Isabel's tiresome niece once again chooses an impossible man that she actually gets engaged to at the same time as Isabel finally gets engaged to her Jamie. But Cat's relationship doesn't last and thank heavens, there are no accusations in this book about Isabel having stolen Cat's discarded boyfriend nor about the age difference between Jamie and Isabel. The author has finally left that behind.

The "mystery" of this novel became a sideline thing. Isabel is asked to help an unpleasant woman that has been threatened in all sorts of manners. But there really is no threat and Isabel doesn't really have to do anything. So, not an exciting book but a really cozy read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just what you would expect, 23 Sept. 2011
Well, here we are again. Yet another Alexander McCall Smith, yet another Elisabeth Dalhousie. How does he keep it up? The answer is obvious to any committed reader of McCall Smith: he repeats himself. If I come across just one more male character who is immensely attractive to the opposite sex but fatally imperfect despite having his hair "en brosse" I shall commit hari-kiri. Nevertheless, since I am committed, I loved it. Sometimes familiarity and the McCall Smith comfort/feelgood factor triumph over pedestrian writing and that horrible sense of semi-deja-vu. This is a case in point. If you've never read McCall Smith before, buy it - you will be entranced. If you have read him before, also buy it - you know you can't live without another fix!

P.S. My attitude to A McC-S is heavily influenced by my belief - despite now living some 11,000 miles away - that Edinburgh is the most beautiful city in the UK. Not the most beautiful in the world, however: have you seen Florence, Granada, Prague, Seville, Budapest, Bruges ?.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Delightful!, 5 May 2012
By 
Cloggie Downunder (Australia) - See all my reviews
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The Lost Art of Gratitude is the 6th novel in the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith. In this instalment, Isabel has to deal with an accusation by Christopher Dove of plagiarism in the Review of Applied Ethics, has to break the news of her engagement to Jamie to her prickly niece, Cat, is coerced into mediating with the father of Minty Auchterlonie's baby, meets Cat's new boyfriend (a tightrope walker), engages a professional to capture Brother Fox and has lunch (a salad) with Professor Lettuce. As usual, Jamie is the voice of reason when Isabel feels action is needed, and Isabel's musings on many and varied subjects are a continual source of humour. And despite everything sent to try her, Isabel finds she has much to be grateful for. Alexander McCall Smith's novels are filled with gentle philosophy, charming characters and laugh-out-loud humour. This audiobook, skilfully abridged by Katy Nichol so that no relevant parts are omitted, is beautifully narrated by Hilary Neville. Truly delightful!
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