cover image The Novel Habits of Happiness

The Novel Habits of Happiness

Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-307-90735-6

No writer makes the philosophical life as inviting and cozy as Smith does in his episodic novels featuring Isabel Dalhousie. In her native Edinburgh, Isabel fills many roles: editor of The Review of Applied Ethics, mother of Charlie, partner of Jamie, and solver of mysteries. When people in Isabel’s circle have troubles, they come to her (“I am a recipient of unusual confidences,” she says to herself). In this 10th installment (after 2012’s The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds), six-year-old Harry is “convinced that he’s had another life,” complete with another family and a house with a red door near a lighthouse. Isabel looks into this odd situation with her usual efficiency, ready intelligence, and highly sympathetic nature. Smith adds a modicum of narrative energy with a subplot about a minor academic feud, but plot isn’t the point. The real substance of this charming series lies in Isabel’s thoughtful observations and the interactions among a large cast of characters. [em]Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (July) [/em]