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Customer Review

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best in the series, but still worth reading, 31 Oct. 2008
This review is from: The Comfort Of Saturdays (Isabel Dalhousie Novels) (Hardcover)
The Comfort of Saturdays is the fifth book in the "Sunday Philosophy Club" series, which feature Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher and occasional amateur sleuth. I should say at the outset that I adore this series. Isabel is a very likeable character with lovely little observations about life and its everyday moral dilemmas. But having said that, this is the book that I have liked least in the series to date. It felt like Isabel spent too much time thinking and not enough doing, to the detriment of the book's momentum.

The story picks up a year after "The Careful Use of Compliments". Isabel and Jamie's son Charlie is now 15 months old. One thing that felt wrong to me as a mother was Isabel's relationship with Charlie, which seemed very functional. She spends so many hours fretting about Jamie - does Jamie love her? is he happy? is she at risk of losing him? how can someone so beautiful want to be with her? - while she seems far less interested in her own son.

The book opens well. Isabel is asked to investigate the circumstances behind a doctor's disgrace over a medical scandal. At the same time, Jamie has developed a friendship with a mysterious composer by the name of Nick Smart. However it felt like McCall Smith lost interest in both of these storylines, which get pushed to the back and never get fully resolved. Instead we spend a lot of time with Isabel and her insecurities. For the first time we see sides of Isabel which are not very appealing: for example she harbours a grudge over a loan that she has made and is quick to pass judgement on Eddie's girlfriend based on the way she looks.

Despite all of this, McCall Smith is still a lovely writer. I always feel a little lighter in spirit after reading his books. The Edinburgh settings are captivating and Isabel has an original and refreshing take on life.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Dec 2009 17:50:04 GMT
I really agreed with you! Charlie is the most trouble-free child in the universe - he never impinges on Isabel's existence, it seems. I wonder whether McCall Smith wrote a pregnancy in for Isabel in a hasty moment, to provide a twist at the end of one of the novels, and then subsequently regretted it as poor old Charlie is just totally ignored. She worries about Jamie all the time but IMHO Jamie's quite a dull character - I can't quite see the big attraction. Sorry Jamie... it just seems odd that Isabel has focused on him THAT much for so many years, in real life I suspect his charm might have worn off.

I've always loved this series and think they're great, but the mysteries in them are usually pretty gripping and take centre stage, with Isabel, Jamie et al providing an intriguing back-plot. In this one the mystery is a bit half-hearted and the rest doesn't seem to sustain a book quite so well. Isabel is a lovely character but she is independently wealthy, loves her job (and is her own boss), has a housekeeper who seems to act as a nanny too, has a younger man who adores her and is able to spend her time at concerts, galleries...pleasing herself basically. She has a pretty trouble-free life and I find it hard to be TOO sympathetic over her agonies about Jamie talking to a composer who she thinks is a bit odd. Get a grip, girl! (oh, and by the way, Isabel, also stop helping Cat with that deli every five minutes. she can hire someone)

I also agree with your last paragraph, though, Julia F; he is a lovely writer and I still enjoyed the book - I just thought it wasn't as good as the rest.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Dec 2009 00:43:03 GMT
Julia Flyte says:
Hi Rachel. Thanks so much for your comments. I went to listen to AMS give a talk earlier this year - he was talking about the No1 Ladies series but digressed into discussing a lot of his books. I have not read the 44 Scotland Street series but there's a young boy in those who's about 6 (I think) called Bertie. Anyway AMS was saying that he has great affection for Bertie and that possibly he's his favourite out of all the characters he's created. I'm wondering if Charlie might get more interesting to him (and therefore us) once he gets a little older? At the moment he's such a nonentity. And you're dead right about Jamie and Isabel's relationship, it is kind of frozen in a particular stage isn't it?

I totally agree with you too about the half-hearted mystery. I felt like there were a lot of aspects of this book that had been added in a formulaic way rather than earning their right to be there. I hope this is a one-off disappointment rather than the start of a downhill slide.

Julia

Posted on 22 Mar 2010 13:11:33 GMT
Kiki says:
Fully agree with everybody here.... That's funny because those were basically my thoughts too - too many unfinished threads (especially the mysterious composer got really on my nerves and was subsequently never quite 'resolved'), a baby that doesn't truly belong to the story as it's really 'only' about the philosophical (and very readable!) thoughts and deeds of a gentle, kind and lucky Isabelle. I too - however - adore absolutely everything our friend AMCS has written and every time I go to England I buy the latest works...
And JULIA, if you haven't done so, YES, go and read the Bertie books; they are great fun and always have a twist one doesn't expect. Sorry to be so late; the reason is that I usually have to wait a long time before being able to read the next book of this so prolific writer!
Thank you both for your excellent comments and kind regards as well as HAPPY READING!
Kiki
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