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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

"Friends, Lovers, Chocolate" by Alexander McCall Smith

This is the second book in the series starting with, and named after, The Sunday Philosophy Club starring philosopher and amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie. Like the 44 Scotland Street books, Dalhousie lives in Edinburgh which is depicted as a genteel village, everyone being middle class and educated and knowing one another. Not exactly Train-Spotting or Rebus!

In this book Dalhousie muses on life while meandering through it. She rather fancies her niece's ex-boyfriend who, unfortunately, still has the hots for the niece. There is the possibility of a dalliance with a handsome Italian. And she tries to solve the mystery of whether the memory of a heart transplant patient might be a 'cellular memory' of the killer of the heart donor.

It is remarkable how McCall Smith can weave a page-turning tale from such gentle observation of not-very-exciting gentlefolks. But he can.

There are one or two acute observations and there are lots of philosophical insights:

  • "the stone was flaking slightly, and a patch had fallen off here and there, like a ripened scab, exposing fresh skin below." (C 1)
  • "we must be judgemental ... when there is something to be judged." (C 1)
  • "The bundle of urges and wants that went with being a physical being ... were at the bottom of most disputes between people." (C 3)
  • "We were all as bad as one another, but at some point we had to overlook that fact, or at least not make too much of it. History ... could so quickly become a matter of mutual accusation and recrimination." (C 5)
  • "Weather was a test of attitude ... Nice people ... were nice about the weather; nasty people were nasty about it." (C 8)
  • "She could think of nothing worse that sitting for hours under an umbrella, an open invitation to sandflies, looking out to sea." (C 8)
  • "Narcissism was no longer considered a vice. That was what the whole cult of celebrity was about ... we feted these people and fed their vanity." (C 9)
  • "If we lived in a global village, then the boundaries of our responsibility were greatly extended. The people dying of poverty, the sick, the dispossessed, were our neighbours even if they were far away." (C 9)
  • "Should one let people express their gratitude properly, even if one is embarrassed or reluctant to do so? There is an art in accepting a present, and indeed there is sometimes an obligation to let others give." (C 9)
  • "She did not approve of promiscuity, which she thought made a mockery of our duty to cherish and respect others; an emotional fast food, really, which one would not wish on anybody. But at the same time one should not starve oneself." (C 11)
  • "To be loved by the unlovable was not something that most people could cope with." (C 13)
  • "'It's a Sisyphean labour for me. I push a rock up a hill and then it rolls down again'. 'Everyone's job is like that ... I wash things and they become dirty and need washing again'." (C 16)
  • "Equality was dull, and goodness was dull too ... Peace was dull; conflict and violence were exciting."(C 16)
  • "If one followed the well-ordered life one would start each day with the writing of one's letters of apology." (C 21)
  •  "Sometimes the trips not taken are better than those one actually takes." (C 21)
  • "Resolution. Musicians know all about that, don't they. Pieces of music seek resolution, have to end on a particular note, or it sounds all wrong. The same applies to our lives." (C 23)

AMS has also written:

January 2019

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