Thursday, February 5, 2009

The comfort of Saturdays

Alexander McCall Smith produced the first book in The Sunday Philosophy Club series in 2004. Titles in the series include The Sunday Philosophy Club, Friends, Lovers, Chocolates, The Right Attitude to Rain and The Careful Use of Compliments. The latest book is The Comfort of Saturdays (published in the USA as The Comfort of Muddy Saturdays).

The books, set in Edinburgh, describe the relationships between Isabel Dalhousie and her family and friends. Isabel is a philosopher editing a refereed journal, Review of Applied Ethics. Editing a journal about ethics creates many opportunities to investigate and agonise about the content of the articles submitted as well an examination of the role of egos in academia and publishing. Being financially independent Isabel is able to live her life without having to worry unduly about matters financial however being a philosopher she analyses and worries about everything else, particularly about how she and her friends live their lives. Consequently the books tend to contain a proportion of angst as Isabel decides on the ethical and moral action to be taken.

Characters regularly appearing in the books include Isabel's niece, Cat, the owner of a delicatessen and a young woman with a succession of unsuccessful relationships; Eddie, the insecure young man who works in the delicatessen; Jamie, a young musician who once went out with Cat but when that relationship ended has a relationship with Isabel and together they have a son; and Grace, Isabel's housekeeper who has definite views on most topics including how to bring up children.

It is not in Isabel's nature to let matters lie and she often investigates and solves mysterious events. In The Comfort of Saturdays Isabel meets a woman at a dinner party who asks her to help her husband who has been implicated in a scandal after the death of a patient prescribed a new drug. Private concerns about a young composer who may come between her and Jamie and why Eddie needs a large sum of money keep Isabel's mind fully occupied.

In the Sunday Philosophy Club series the light hearted, intelligent style of writing used so effectively by Alexander McCall Smith examines a range of familiar human problems causing the reader to reflect on how they may have handled the situation while they follow the situations to be resolved by Isabel.

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