Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Books of the same feather

I'm reading THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO RAIN: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel by Alexander McCall Smith, the third in the series on the life of a fortysomething single philosopher and editor of the Ethical Times. Unlike his other series on Mme. Ramotswe, which are termed mysteries, but tend to be gentle fables with a hint of a dead body now and then, the Isabel Dalhousie books are wordier, abstract, and border on the didactic. There was one "murder" at the beginning of the series, but the last book (FRIENDS, LOVERS, CHOCOLATE) and this one tends to philosophical and romantic constructs. What I enjoy about these two is the development of Isabel's emotional connection with Jamie, the younger man and former boyfriend of Isabel's niece, Cat. Isabel sees the 14 year age difference as a major obstacle, offering Jamie a gentle, dignified friendship, with a large dose of philosophy (that is her job after all). In Attitude to Rain, Jamie's feelings towards Isabel progress in a direction romantics would approve of, although it does lead to ethically or is it morally? questionable actions on the part of the two.

However, McCall Smith doesn't divert too much between the Isabel Dalhousie books and those of his more famous Mme. Ramotswe mysteries (also known as the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series). Both have female protagonists, more or less in charge of their own lives and with a general sense of fiscal independence. They're both analytical women, single, but with a past bad relationship (Precious Ramotswe was abused by her husband, and in one volume is revisited by her ex; Isabel recalls on occasion her relationship with an emotionally abusive partner). There are subordinate characters, usually female as well. And the male objects of affection are gentlemen, with their own emotional baggage, but nothing to deter the female leads from another lease on life. The author also seems to find that women in their forties a lot more interesting than younger ages. And is it just a coincidence that both roles have fond memories of their fathers, Precious more so than Isabel?

Both series are enjoyable without being too mentally taxing. I can imagine a growth in interest in visiting Botswana and Scotland by his fans, seeking signs of inspiration for the characters.

No comments:

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies