The Right Attitude to Rain
Alexander McCall Smith, . . Pantheon, $21.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42300-0
The third novel featuring well-to-do and somewhat-nosy philosopher Isabel Dalhousie continues McCall Smith's exploration of the rights and wrongs of everyday life, with Isabel's thoughtful presence providing decidedly more intellectual punch than the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. When Jamie, a young musician, begins to show interest in Isabel, her stirred feelings threaten to overwhelm her even keel, throwing her into ethical crisis. To what degree are our lives dictated by biological imperatives and desires? Does the meaning of art arise from the art itself or its audience? Are white lies permissible, and if so, when? What does the well-off individual owe the homeless man on the corner? Out-of-town visitors to Edinburgh—Americans, no less—provide further touchstones for all manner of ethical mulling as well as the grist of the book's mystery: does Angie, a young, inscrutable woman betrothed to a wealthy Dallas bachelor, Tom Bruce, have her eyes set on true love or money? At times Isabel's intense dedication to mindfulness borders on the didactic, but love comes to the rescue, nicely illustrating the book's most important philosophical puzzle: how is it that people find real happiness, and what does it have to do with loving rather than thinking?
Reviewed on: 08/28/2006