cover image The Forever Girl

The Forever Girl

Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon, $24.95 (316p) ISBN 978-0-307-90825-4

Smith (Trains and Lovers) sets his latest novel in Grand Cayman's community of wealthy expatriates. Amanda raises two children, Clover and Billy, while her husband David shows "[interest] in figures and money and not much else." Though tempted to begin a love affair with local doctor George Collins, Amanda chooses to move to Scotland instead, where she enrolls her children in boarding school. The novel's first half devotes an occasional chapter to young Clover, who asserts that George's son, James, is "the one [she] want[s]." The second half essentially abandons Amanda's story and follows her daughter to university in Edinburgh. Smith makes nothing of that the connection between Amanda and Clover falling for different generations of the same family, and the novel suffers greatly from its commitment to restraint. There is much talk of passion%E2%80%94George describes love as "discovering the map that you've been looking for all your life and have never been able to find"%E2%80%94but there is little evidence of that passion in the characters. Readers never have a clear sense of anyone's physicality, and Clover's love for James is largely founded on the fact that he is "kind." The prose is cool and reserved, though the story%E2%80%94a story of love that leads a woman all over the globe%E2%80%94begs for more warmth and intensity. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Feb.)