Book Review – The Forgotten Affairs Of Youth

by Alexander McCall Smith (Little, Brown) ISBN: 978-1-4087-0340-3

Novels from prolific Alexander McCall Smith promise me a couple of enjoyable hours, smiles of delight and tears of compassion. I love his quirky characters and insightful observations.

Through his various series I feel acquainted with Gaborone and Edinburgh. The Forgotten Affairs of Youth, nr 8 in the Isabel Dalhousie series doesn’t deliver on that promise. Is the quantity of his novels overtaking the quality?

The story describes Isabel enjoying her family life in Edinburgh. Disruptions threaten through Cat who has her eyes on an unsuitable boyfriend and through the orchestrations of Professor Lettuce to unseat Isabel from the Review of Applied Ethics. Housekeeper Grace treats a medium’s words as gospel. By supporting an Australian philosopher in the quest for her biological parents, Isabel follows her sense of duty to assist those to whom she feels to be in “in moral proximity”.

Apart from the specifics of the quest, this summary would apply to other instalments in the series. Combined with Isabel’s wonderful philosophical musings this constitutes the successful format.

However, this book feels mainly bland. The storylines are resolved before they well and truly take off and there is no real change or development in Isabel. I was bored. The Greek philosophers already propounded the concept of “less is more”; I wish Mr McCall Smith would pay them heed.

Josine Overdevest

Posted on: 14th March 2012