Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Right Attitude to Rain, Alexander McCall Smith

I have found that I really prefer to listen to Alexander McCall Smith's books rather than read them. I listened to all of the 44 Scotland Street series, though I am still patiently waiting for The Importance of Being Seven to come out as an audio book. I started the Sunday Philosophy Club (featuring Isabel Dalhousie) series a few years ago, but only read the first two. So, when I saw number 3, The Right Attitude to Rain, at the library last week, I snapped it up...and enjoyed it very much but spent much of it a bit perplexed.

I always thought of the Sunday Philosophy Club series as a mystery series--I certainly read the first two as if they were mysteries, but in the third, I kept on waiting for something mysterious to happen, and it never really did. I checked and confirmed that the book is definitely pitched as "An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries)". Be that as it may, this is just not a mystery as 99% of the world view the genre. After that, I relaxed and just enjoyed the story, which in this book focuses on Isabel's acknowledgement of her love for Jamie, her niece's ex-boyfriend and a handsome, sweet, young man 14 years her junior.

As with the Scotland Street series, I enjoyed the slice of life aspect of the story with frequent strolls around Edinburgh, plus a weekend trip to a posh country manor, numerous visits to coffee shops, and a wide range of conversations that don't necessarily go anywhere but are enjoyable nonetheless.

I also found Isabel's meandering philosophical musings to be interesting regardless of whether they were personal (e.g., the ethics of having an affair with one's niece's ex-boyfriend) or theoretical (e.g., the ethics of a lifeboat, aka is it okay to kill and eat one's companions in order to live).

In the end, there was a bit of a mystery that remained unresolved as the book ended. This involved the Americans in the book, a Dallas oilman and his young fiancee. Was she a golddigger, or was he an opportunist? Were either of them capable of the level of violence that Isabel attributed to them at various points in the book. How much of her assumptions about their guilt or innocence were wrapped up in her own conflicted feelings about couples whose ages were fairly far apart. This is not an Ian Rankin kind of mystery, but more the kind I would personally find myself involved in. This is not hanging-on-every-word kind of tension, but more comfortable-old-shoes puzzling.

Much as I enjoyed the book, I do have to make a comment on the reader, Davina Porter. I have heard her praised by other bloggers, and I thought she handled the Scottish characters beautifully. A real pleasure to listen to her Isabel, Jamie, Cat, Eddie, etc. However, her American accent was absolutely grating. Do we really sound that harsh and guttural? All of the Americans in the book were from Dallas, but Porter didn't even attempt a Texas drawl. Instead, she did a very flat, rough middle-American accent for all of the Americans that I found difficult to listen to.


  1. I really want to try his 44 Scotland Street series. Since I love audio books, I'll probably go that route.

  2. This is the only Dalhousie book which I've read and I remember that I didn't enjoy it as much as the Scotland Street books. I'm reading his Corduroy Mansions now - set in London.

  3. Very interesting review. I much preferred The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency on audio, too. Have considered starting both 44 Scotland Street and The Sunday Philosophy Club series. There have been a few readers whose American accents have sent shivers down my spine, so I understand your reaction. Porter seems to be a very popular in the blogging community, but I have yet to listen to her.

  4. I love the Isabel Dalhousie books. I haven't read any of his others, but I have Corduroy Mansions, which looks interesting.

    I particularly like the slow, thoughtful meanderings and the way he shows and develops the relationships between the characters.

    I haven't listened to any of these audiobooks, but sometimes I do find American accents by British readers rather strange and forced.

  5. the accent you mention sounds difficult to listen to. otherwise the book sounds like a good one for audio!

  6. Embarrassed to say I ave never read anything by this author. Like you, I tried the audio version , of the very first book by this author, and the voice/accents were too difficult for me so I gave up.