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Publisher must have held a gun to McCall Smith's head!
on 5 March 2013
After reading a 700 page book on Anti-Semitism, I needed to relax and read a book where I did not have to use my brain cells. So I read this book! Usually I like these books because I recognise myself in Isabel Dalhousie's thoughts. I can myself day-dream like her or reason with myself, and forget time and place. BUT in this book, her philosophical dialogues with herself, were uninteresting. The "mystery" in this novel was for her to find out if the three canditates for a headmaster post at a private boys' school, had some shady past. She did not really put any effort in to it, just drew some general conclusions about two of them, only to find out in the last chapter, that the board of directors had decided to not go with any of the three, but keep the current headmaster. It feels like MacCall Smith wrote this book because his publisher ordered him to do so. There is no heart in it at all.
As for the frustrating relationship with Jamie, her much younger lover and husband-to-be, it just got more vexing in this book. So not even that gave any reading pleasure. The two have independent lives, live parallell lives if you wish. Is that really love? Is it love when you don't dare to confront someone? Is it love when you feel that you have to keep secrets from each other? These two have no problems in the bedroom but they don't TALK to each other except about music, poems, Scotland and their son. When Jamie goes to the cinema with a woman from his orchestra, Isabel only find out about it from her niece's employée, Eddie. Why was handsome Jamie in the cinema with another woman? Because the woman said she is dying and she has never had a boyfriend so could Jamie please fulfil a dying woman's wish and have sex with her? Jamie said no, but not strong enough for my comfort! Isabel had to go and deal with the woman since he would not! What does this say about their relationship? McCall Smith might think he has created a nice character in Jamie. As a woman, I say that he has created a wet noodle that is just staying with Isabel because it's comfortable and whether he loves her or not is beside the point. He doesn't have it in him to ever end a relationship. Both their relationship and the book are as exciting as a dead tuna.