The Careful Use Of Compliments. Description For philosophically minded Isabel Dalhousie, editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, getting through life with a clear conscience requires careful thought. And with the arrival of baby Charlie, not to mention a passionate relationship with his father Jamie, fourteen years her junior, Isabel enters deeper and rougher waters.
Late motherhood is not the only challenge facing Isabel. Even as she negotiates a truce with her furious niece Cat, and struggles for authority over her son with her formidable housekeeper Grace, Isabel finds herself drawn into the story of a painter's mysterious death off the island of Jura.
Perhaps most seriously of all, Isabel's professional existence and that of her beloved Review come under attack from the machiavellian and suspiciously handsome Professor Dove. A master storyteller whether debating ethics in Edinburgh or pursuing lady detectives in Africa, here Alexander McCall Smith is as witty and wise as his irresistibly spirited heroine. People who bought this also bought. Bestsellers in Contemporary Fiction. Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng.
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The Isabel Dalhousie books just keep getting better! I really enjoyed this one and the last one The Right Attitude to Rain. Although NOT detective fiction as they are so often classified, they are easy reads with interesting philosophical questions presented in a way even non-philosophers like me can understand.
Sep 24, Andrea rated it really liked it Recommends it for: This, the Isabel Dalhousie series, is one of two series that I keep tabs on, and both have new books out this fall. This series is largely character driven, has a great sense of geographic place, and is just an easy, entertaining read. Plus, I'll always give points for a book whose main character is a philosopher.
I do think this particular book is the weakest of the 4 Dalhousie books, but that's alright. I do confess that I almost didn't list this on my Goodreads account - This, the Isabel Dalhousie series, is one of two series that I keep tabs on, and both have new books out this fall. I do confess that I almost didn't list this on my Goodreads account - I am a reader who has always felt guilty about reading certain books, the literary equivalent of a bag of Skittles, even though in this series McCall-Smith weaves in great little tidbits of info on art, music, Scotland, and of course distillations of philosophy.
In any case, I'm trying to get away from this guilt, and the anecdote and conclusion I fall back on is this: I was once discussing childhood reading habits with a bibliophile friend, and I mentioned having loved The Babysitters Club as a kid. She scoffed, and pointed out that there was so much great YA fiction, why would I chose to read that. I was offended, and then kind of embarrassed, but then thought, well hell, I gained a life-long love of reading from my experience with that series, and that's all that matters to me.
And so it continues. Mar 23, Ingrid rated it it was ok. Since the plot, or "mystery", of this story is rather tepid and meh, there is not much action, so the book becomes heavily reliant on the characters, chiefly Isabel. I struggled with completing this book, all the while hoping for some development in the plot or at least something relatable, welll I will maybe give her another chance, if I happen upon another book in this series, but she will have to work hard to win me over.
Mar 28, Beth Bonini rated it really liked it. It would have been interesting to see Isabel Dalhousie during pregnancy, but the author chose to make a rather big jump between books: Perhaps the author felt uncomfortable getting into the nitty-gritty of pregnancy and the grimier aspects of early motherhood, but the storyline glides over all of this very smoothly. That kind of reality is not part of the Isabel Dalhousie fictional world; I could accept that, but I can also see that it might annoy other readers.
As with the previous books, the emphasis is all on Isabel's philosophical musings and the mystery she involves herself in. Jamie her younger boyfriend , Cat her difficult niece and Grace her housekeeper round out the cast of characters, although there are also some Edinburgh bit players. The "mystery" in this book revolves around a painting and a Scottish painter called Andrew McInnes. When a painting of the deceased McInnes comes up on the market, Isabel bids for it -- but then loses it to another bidder because she feels some discomfort about the sum of money involved.
Isabel's wealth is an issue is this novel, and it takes various forms: The idea of authenticity and identity plays out in various ways. At first, Isabel decides that the painting is a fake -- and believes that she has the evidence to prove it -- but then the mystery of McInnes takes on an entirely unexpected dimension. A good ending; I particularly liked the way the McInnes mystery played out, with its various connections to the idea of paternity.
Comment after reading first chapter: I had read the first two books in this series, but not the third. I did enjoy them, but my comments included, "It was an easy, light read. Because of that when this book - the forth in the series - appeared on the table at a BookCrossing Meet I did not think it would matter that I had not read the third story. I thought she was late middle ag Comment after reading first chapter: I thought she was late middle aged, well into her fifties at least. She had always came across to me as being far too old to have a baby. It was like suddenly reading that Agatha Christie's Miss Marple had had a baby.
Golly gosh, now I better read on I have now finished the book. This is my favourite book of the series so far She is written older. I guessed the mystery surrounding the paintings before it was revealed, but that didn't worry me. The story is more about Isabel's comfortable, day to day life in cold Edinburgh. Even in summer it sounds chilly, and in fact it was when I visited it in summer.
I only had a few hours between trains and it was a quick explore of the streets on my bicycle. My fleeting impression of Edinburgh was hilly, grey sky, black stone buildings and chilly. Then I took refuge in the warm, timber-panelled railway station waiting room with a cup of tea and biscuits to wait for my train. I always say these Alexander McCall Smith books are review-proof, especially if you are on the 4th book of a series, as is the case with The Careful Use of Compliments. I had read the 3rd book earlier this year and had not intended to pick up this one quite yet, but I had just come off such a mentally taxing read that I really need the light and fluff of McCall Smith to do what I call a cleanse of my literary palette.
Normally, I would have switched off with the No. I thought this was a quite good installment with one of the better "mysteries" of the series and was relieved that the series didn't "jumped the shark" as I fear it might have given the new character in the book. At the risk of being repetitive, I find these books to be reliably pleasant and a great diversion from more serious reading. In browsing reviews here, I saw the book called "meandering" and while it was meant as a negative criticism, I find it to be one of the strengths of the series and McCall Smith in general Oct 17, Jon rated it it was ok.
My wife talked me into reading this one, even though I'd pretty much given up on this series.
Many people find Isabel Dalhousie to be charming--I find her annoying. She allegedly has a PhD in philosophy, and she thinks incessantly about almost everything. She says she likes to let her mind wander, because that's how it arrives at interesting places. I don't find her getting anyplace interesting very often.
Her musings remind me of the way your mind drifts while driving on a long trip. At the end My wife talked me into reading this one, even though I'd pretty much given up on this series. At the end you can't remember a single thing you were thinking about. Mostly she does what Basil Fawlty would call "running over the bleeding obvious. She was right--those parts were more entertaining, and Isabel did actually have what were for me some fresh insights.
And there was the ghost of an actual mystery drifting through this one, a mystery that involved some moral complexity and which got satisfactorily resolved. So this installment in the series somewhat restored my faith; but I doubt if I'll read another. His books are just plain delightful.
They are my comfort zone. Like-able characters, fun plots. While his writing does make me think, he has a light handed touch at ethical dilemas and current events. I love the way the main characters often have a rambling train of thought that allows the author to weave around lots of life's little issues without hitting you over the head with it. Fleeting references to a world view. The books are like those old "Little House" type TV series - that always had a message and ended well. McCall's books make me feel good when I've been dealing with other heavy reading.
For a great light read, why not start with the eminently civilised novels of McCall Smith?
Great learning and a lifetime of experience combined with careful, playful observation make each one of his books a postmodernist's idyll. If you don't buy that, pick up a copy of his insightful work on W. Auden, and you'll see the inner life of Isabel Dalhousie close up, and have more of a clue on what really makes her tick. View all 3 comments. Aug 12, Kathrin rated it liked it.
Nandakishore said: This book is the fourth of a series, and as usual with series, follo Read saving The Careful Use of Compliments (Isabel Dalhousie, #4). The Careful Use of Compliments: Book 4 [Alexander Mccall Smith] on Amazon. com. *FREE* shipping on Book 4 of 10 in the Isabel Dalhousie Series.
Don't get me wrong, I like this series and I will continue reading it. It just feels a little like the same old same old with a baby thrown in. The mystery this time was actually mysterious, even though the mystery is never the focus in this series. Isabel Dalhousie enjoys her job as editor of the Journal of Applied Ethics but she is upset by a letter telling her she is to be replaced as editor.
She find she is much more upset about it than she might have thought. Meanwhile she is settling down into single motherhood and looking after baby Charlie with the help of housekeeper, Grace and the boy's father, Jamie. But Isabel wants to try and repair her relationship with her niece, Cat who feels Isabel has stolen Jamie from her even though she Isabel Dalhousie enjoys her job as editor of the Journal of Applied Ethics but she is upset by a letter telling her she is to be replaced as editor.
But Isabel wants to try and repair her relationship with her niece, Cat who feels Isabel has stolen Jamie from her even though she herself had broken up with him some time before he fell in love with Isabel.
In addition Isabel has become interested in some paintings which she thinks may be forgeries and she takes a trip to the Isle of Jura with Jamie and Charlie to try and work out whether her theory is correct. This is a gentle read with plenty of philosophical speculations about aspects of everyday life. The excruciating dinner party is really well written and will make you cringe and feel the embarrassment as though you were actually there. If you're wanting to read books which are fast paced with lots of action, then you won't enjoy this one.
But if enjoy books which are light reads on the surface but which cause you to think about every day life then you may enjoy this one as well as the rest of the books in this series. This is the fourth book in the Isabel Dalhousie series.
May 13, Mary rated it liked it. I enjoyed this book very much, but then I always like McCall Smith. Isabel Dalhousie might be my favorite character that he's created, largely because she reminds me of me. But it's not as dry as all that sounds. She loves a niece who hardly seems worth the bother, for the most part, and she loves a man who' I enjoyed this book very much, but then I always like McCall Smith. She loves a niece who hardly seems worth the bother, for the most part, and she loves a man who's younger than herself.
McCall Smith is a master of restraint discussing their relationship; he simply lays it out, leaving the reader's reaction entirely up to the reader. One of the things I like about his novels set in Scotland, as this one is,is the similarity between the culture he describes and our own. It's just distant enough to allow some fresh perspective. McCall Smith said that she "often gets it wrong," and this clue helped me enjoy the possible irony of Isabel's use of her tremendous wealth to outmaneuver an enemy, while finding the most morally justifiable grounds for doing so.
A neat little plot twist rounds up an enjoyable story. I'm inclined to wonder if these books would be as favorably acclaimed as they are if a woman had written them. I ran out of reading material twenty-four hours before the end of a recent trip and needed something to fill the flight home, so I picked this book up expecting nothing special; I found it, however, to be most enjoyable.
Written largely in simple declarative sentences, metaphors being neither frequent nor striking, the writing itself is not noteworthy, but Smith has taken ample opportunity to posit endless ethical dilemmas within the context of everyday life in a way that is thought provoking and interesting. He also skillfully weaves allusions to writers like Hume, Auden, and Murdoch, into the narrative. I liked the book, finding it to be a smooth and gentle read.
While I probably will not intentionally seek out others of his books to read, I would not hesitate to pick up another in an airport should I run short of reading material in the future. Jan 25, Merry rated it really liked it. I have rarely encountered a character as pensive as Isabel Dalhousie. She deliberates about every aspect of life, and strives to make the highest moral decision.
She is a great role model for anyone, and I wish she were my best friend. Jan 11, Anne rated it it was amazing. I love these little mysteries Fun to read Isabel's thought process. Makes philosophy interesting and real. Feb 03, Sophiene rated it it was amazing Shelves: I just love this series, it's like coming home and sitting in your favorite chair with a nice cup of tea.
Jul 11, Debi rated it liked it. Jan 22, Priscilla rated it really liked it. Another fun AMS book. I really resonate with her! Aug 26, Cathleen rated it really liked it Shelves: I've been looking for light--but good reading--and the Sunday Philosopher's series are a perfect match for my mood. This is the fourth of the series, and I'm glad that there are many more to read. I guess you'd call Isabel Dalhousie an independent scholar; she is the editor of a philosophy journal, yet she is not a philosophy professor.
In this novel, she is ousted from her position because she doesn't have an academic appointment, but that doesn't stop her. That's one plot line of the novel; an I've been looking for light--but good reading--and the Sunday Philosopher's series are a perfect match for my mood. That's one plot line of the novel; another is the authenticity of several paintings, and Isabel, ever the curious, "interfering" one, gets involved to find out the true story of the paintings' origins.
I'm enjoying getting to know her character, as well as Jamie, her partner and father of her infant son; Grace, the sensible housekeeper, and Cat, Isabel's niece. All are well-realized, and the dialogue often makes me chuckle, especially between Isabel and Grace. McCall Smith writes lovingly of Edinburgh, its sights, sounds and the surrounding countryside.