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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
The Lost Art Of Gratitude (Isabel Dalhousie Novels)
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on 15 March 2011
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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on 1 May 2017
I thought the start was rather slow, but the pace soon picked up as the story got going. Beautifully written, as usual, and with some interesting food for thought.
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on 2 March 2017
Sent on time at good price all ok
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VINE VOICEon 7 September 2009
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 September 2009
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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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 10 October 2009
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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on 19 October 2009
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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on 2 November 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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VINE VOICEon 9 November 2009
I enjoyed the way this book was written; I admire Mr. McCall Smith's detailed observation of human behaviour. I found Isabel Dalhousie a sympathetic and believable character; I appreciated the descriptive passages, which beautifully evoke Edinburgh - a city with which I am familiar.

However, when I finished the book, I felt cheated. Nothing had really happened. Nothing new, or insightful about human nature, had been revealed. Reading this book was not an arduous experience, but I felt it was a waste of time. I kept admiring how well it was written and waited patiently for the point to be revealed but there was none.

I see that I have been reading a book from the middle of a series. Maybe I would feel differently if these were well-loved, familiar figures to me; but they were not, and ultimately I could not really care about them. I would certainly recommend that no one reads this as their first introduction to Isabal Dalhousie.
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on 8 May 2012
I am a great fan of A McC S but I'm afraid I found this book rather hard going. A problem with McCall Smith's writing, in this series, is the incessant philosophical musing of Isabel - and in this episode he takes it to extremes; to the extent that it verges on waffle. The actual plot is so minimal, it could be disposed of in about 20 pages without skimping. The worst thing about the philosophy is that it's all so elementary and obvious - nothing to really get your teeth into. If you are a great fan of the 'Isabel Dalhousie' novels, then it may be worth reading this one but otherwise it's probably best to try something else. Whatever you do, don't read this as an introduction to the author's work, as you will most likely give up on him, and he has a lot to offer.
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