Friday, September 1, 2017

Book Review: 'The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds' by Alexander McCall Smith

"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another." -- Leviticus 19:11 (NKJV)

Reading about Isabel Dalhousie is a lot like paying attention to the mental chatter in your own mind, as you waver over what to do in trying and morally difficult circumstances. The main difference is that Isabel's life is filled with love and loving thoughts, rather than just annoyances.

In this outing, Isabel is presented with the challenge of a painting that's been stolen and is being offered back in exchange for a reward from the insurance company. What's the right thing to do? Isabel's answer may interest you. I certainly enjoyed it.

Another challenge arises when Charlie begins to show arithmetic skills ahead of his years. As more is learned, the questions to be answered increase. I think you'll enjoy this set of moral questions as well.

I thought that the more interesting questions in the book revolved directly and indirectly about what it means to be a good parent. The stolen art seemed more like a hypothetical that professors like to use in ethics classes than a credible event for such a novel.

There are also some seemingly hair-splitting decisions involving making representations that may or may not be the whole truth. I wasn't convinced by the author's arguments.

This ninth novel in the series won't rock your boat, but it will certainly go down smoothly ... like some fine scones and clotted cream at tea time.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Donald Mitchell. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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