The Lost Art of Gratitude (Isabel Dalhousie Series #6)

( 28 )

Overview

"Isabel's son, Charlie, is now of an age - eighteen months - to have a social life, and so off they go to a birthday party, where, much to Isabel's surprise, she encounters an old adversary, Minty Auchterlonie, now a high-flying financier. Minty had seemed to Isabel a woman of ruthless ambition, but the question of her integrity had never been answered. Now, when Minty takes Isabel into her confidence about a personal matter, Isabel finds herself going another round: Is Minty to be trusted? Or is she the perpetrator of an enormous financial ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (6) from $8.00   
  • Used (6) from $8.00   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$8.00
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(25290)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

Good

Ships from: Toledo, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$8.01
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(7264)

Condition: Very Good
Book has appearance of only minimal use. All pages are undamaged with no significant creases or tears.With pride from Motor City. All books guaranteed. Best Service, Best ... Prices. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Brownstown, MI

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$8.01
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(7264)

Condition: Good
Minimal damage to cover and binding. Pages show light use.With pride from Motor City. All books guaranteed. Best Service, Best Prices.

Ships from: Brownstown, MI

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$12.94
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(13)

Condition: Very Good
Hardcover Very Good 0307397017 More than 8500 books sold worldwide. A very nice copy. The book is clean, tightly bound and glossy. No writing (except inscription) or ... highlighting and no creasing. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Niagara Falls, NY

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$21.00
Seller since 2005

Feedback rating:

(96)

Condition: Very Good
Toronto 2009 Hard Cover First Canadian Edition Very Good in Very Good jacket 8vo. pp. [3] 262.

Ships from: Edmonton, Canada

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$30.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(27)

Condition: Good
Buy with Confidence. Excellent Customer Support. We ship from multiple US locations. No CD, DVD or Access Code Included.

Ships from: Fort Mill, SC

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by

Overview

"Isabel's son, Charlie, is now of an age - eighteen months - to have a social life, and so off they go to a birthday party, where, much to Isabel's surprise, she encounters an old adversary, Minty Auchterlonie, now a high-flying financier. Minty had seemed to Isabel a woman of ruthless ambition, but the question of her integrity had never been answered. Now, when Minty takes Isabel into her confidence about a personal matter, Isabel finds herself going another round: Is Minty to be trusted? Or is she the perpetrator of an enormous financial fraud? And what should Isabel make of the rumors of shady financial transactions at Minty's investment bank?" "Not that this is the only dilemma facing Isabel: she also crosses swords again with her nemesis, Professor Dove, in an argument over plagiarism. Of course her niece, Cat, has a new, problematic man (a tightrope walker!) in her life. And there remains the open question of marriage to Jamie - doting father of Charlie." As always, there is no end to the delight in accompanying Isabel as she makes her way toward the heart of every problem: philosophizing, sleuthing, and downright snooping in her inimitable - and inimitably charming - fashion.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In an interview, author Alexander McCall Smith once said that his Isabel Dalhousie novels have something to do with the mystery genre, "but only in a rather quirky, incidental way." You might say that their bluestocking Edinburgh protagonist approaches all conundrums, albeit ethical or criminal, in comparably quirky, incidental ways. This outing is literally a birthday party for her 18-month-old son. At the gathering, Isabel encounters Minty Auchterlonie, the banking mogul first introduced in The Sunday Philosophy Club, which leads in a civilized way to speculation about high-stakes shenanigans. That, of course, is only one of many strands in The Lost Art of Gratitude, which includes a controversy about plagiarism, a harrowing Highlands climb, and Cat's seemingly unending quest to find the Wrong Man. A diverting Scottish stroll with the author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
Publishers Weekly
Smith's quietly triumphant sixth novel to feature Scottish philosopher Isabel Dalhousie (after 2008's The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday) shows that Isabel and the author's other, better-known female sleuth—Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series—are sisters under the skin, despite obvious differences. Minty Auchterlonie, who once alerted Isabel to some insider trading, fears someone is out to get her. The tax authorities have suddenly investigated Minty, and an unknown party has sent her a funeral wreath. When Isabel looks into these provocative acts, she draws on lessons learned from the journal she edits, the Review of Applied Ethics, to arrive at the complex truth behind them. Meanwhile, the father of Isabel's young son proposes marriage, and a defeated academic rival accuses her of knowingly publishing plagiarism. Smith's trademark humor and telling observations about people heighten the appeal. (Sept. 22)
Kirkus Reviews
Inspired and encouraged by verses from W.H. Auden, Edinburgh philosopher Isabel Dalhousie again confronts wickedness masquerading as mere crime. A child's birthday party is an unusual spot to get a new case, but that's where high-flying investment banker Minty Auchterlonie asks Isabel to meet with Jock Dundas, who's threatening to reveal their (now-ended) extramarital affair to her husband, Gordon McCaig, unless Minty gives Jock access to the son Gordon assumes is his. It's a delicate mission, but no more delicate than the other tasks on Isabel's plate. Her old nemesis Prof. Christopher Dove accuses her of condoning plagiarism as editor of the Journal of Applied Ethics. Her niece Cat, a deli owner who's never quite gotten over Isabel's continuing liaison with her former lover Jamie, the father of Isabel's son Charlie, announces her engagement to Bruno, a tightrope walker and stunt man who seems utterly unsuitable. Jamie proposes marriage to Isabel, propelling her into a state of bliss that's punctured only when her housekeeper expresses relief that now she can stop living in sin. And Isabel has to decide what to do about a neighborhood fox she's been feeding when he turns up wounded but won't let her touch him. As usual in this wise and literate series (The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday, 2008, etc.), nothing much happens. Yet readers as sensitive as Isabel will turn the last page feeling that they've been through quite a bit, from a confrontation with monstrous evil to another round of struggles to help creatures in need.
From the Publisher
Praise for the Isabel Dalhousie Series:

"Alexander McCall Smith, a fine writer, paints his hometown of Edinburgh as indelibly as he captures the sunniness of Africa. We can almost feel the mists as we tread the cobblestones."
The Dallas Morning News

"The literary equivalent of herbal tea and a cozy fire . . . Invite[s] readers into a world of kindness, gentility, and creature comforts. McCall Smith's Scotland [is] well worth future visits."
The New York Times

"Alexander McCall Smith's assessments of fellow humans are piercing and profound. [His] depictions of Edinburgh are vivid and seamless . . . His fans are sure to embrace these moral peregrinations among the plaid."
San Francisco Chronicle

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307397010
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada
  • Publication date: 9/22/2009
  • Series: Isabel Dalhousie Series , #6
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith

ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics.

Biography

Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and went to school in Bulawayo, near the Botswana border. Although he moved to Scotland to attend college and eventually settled in Edinburgh, he always felt drawn to southern Africa and taught law for a while at the University of Botswana. He has written a book on the criminal law of Botswana, and among his successful children's books is a collection of African folk tales, Children of Wax.

Eventually, Smith had an urge to write a novel about a woman who would embody the qualities he admired in the people of Botswana, and the result, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, was a surprise hit, receiving two special Booker citations and a place on the Times Literary Supplement's International Books of the Year and the Millennium list. "The author's prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision," Anthony Daniels wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. "His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswanan landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven't read anything with such unalloyed pleasure for a long time."

Despite the book's success in the U.K., American publishers were slow to take an interest, and by the time The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was picked up by Pantheon Books, Smith had already written two sequels. The books went from underground hits to national phenomena in the United States, spawning fan clubs and inspiring celebratory reviews. Smith is also the author of a detective series featuring the insatiably curious philosopher Isabel Dalhousie and the 44 Scotland Street novels, which present a witty portrait of Edinburgh society

In an interview on the publisher's web site, Smith says he thinks the country of Botswana "particularly chimes with many of the values which Americans feel very strongly about -- respect for the rule of law and for individual freedom. I hope that readers will also see in these portrayals of Botswana some of the great traditional virtues in Africa -- in particular, courtesy and a striking natural dignity."

Good To Know

As a professor at Edinburgh Law School, Smith specializes in criminal law and medical law, and has written about the legal and ethical aspects of euthanasia, medical research, and medical practice.

When he isn't writing books or teaching, Smith finds time to play the bassoon in the candidly named amateur ensemble he co-founded, The Really Terrible Orchestra.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

IT WAS WHILE she was lying in bed that Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, thought about the things we do. Isabel was a light sleeper; Charlie, her eighteen-month-old son, slept deeply and, she was sure, contentedly; Jamie was somewhere in between. Yet Isabel had little difficulty in getting to sleep. Once she made up her mind to sleep, all that she had to do was to shut her eyes and, sure enough, she would drift off. The same could be done if she surfaced in the course of the night or in those melancholy small hours when both body and spirit could be at their lowest ebb. Then all she had to do was to tell herself that this was not the time to start thinking, and she would quickly return to sleep.

She had wondered about the causes of her light sleeping and had spoken about it to a friend, a specialist in sleep disorders. She had not consulted him professionally, but had brought the matter up over dinner; not before the whole table, of course, but in the intimacy of the one-to-one conversation that people have with those sitting beside them.

"I don't like to ask about medical things," she said.

"But . . . ," he said.

"Well, yes. But. You see, you doctors must dread being buttonholed by people who want to talk about their symptoms. There you are at a party and somebody says: I've been having these twinges of pain in my stomach . . ."

"Have you?"

"No, I haven't."

He smiled. "The old cliché, you know. Somebody comes and says, A friend of mine has this rash, you see, and I wondered what it was. That sometimes happens. Doctors understand all about embarrassment, you know."

Isabel nodded. "But it must annoy you—being asked about medical matters."

He thought for a moment. "Nihil humanum mihi alienum est, if I may lapse into Latin. I don't set my mind against anything human. Doctors should subscribe to that, I think. Like priests."

Isabel did not think the comparison quite fitting. "Priests do disapprove, don't they? Doctors don't—or shouldn't. You don't shake your head over your patients' behaviour, do you?"

"If doctors see self-destructive behaviour, they might," he said. "If somebody comes in with chronic vascular disease, for example, and you smell the nicotine on his fingers, of course you're going to say something. Or a drinker comes in with liver problems. You're going to make it clear what's causing the problem."

"But you don't ladle on the blame, do you? You don't say things like, This is all your own stupid fault. You don't say that, even if it patently is his stupid fault."

He played with his fork. "No, I suppose not."

"Whereas a priest will. A priest will use the language of right and wrong. I don't think doctors do that." She looked at him. He was typical of a certain type of Edinburgh doctor; the old-fashioned, gentle Scottish physician, unmoved by the considerations of profit and personal gain that could so disfigure medicine. That doctors should consider themselves businessmen was, Isabel had always felt, a moral tragedy for medicine. Who was left to be altruistic? Teachers, she thought, and people who worked for charities; and public-interest lawyers, and . . . in fact, the list was quite long; probably every bit as long as it ever had been. One should be careful, she told herself, in commenting on the decline of society; the elder Cato was the warning here—a frightful old prig, he had warned that everything was in decline, forgetting that once we reach forty we all believe that the world is on the slide. Only if eighteen-year-olds started to say O tempora! O mores! would the situation be really alarming; eighteen-year-olds did not say that, though; they no longer had any Latin, of course, and could not.

"You were going to ask me a question," he said. He knew Isabel, and her digressions, her tendency to bring philosophical complications into the simplest of matters.

"Why are some people light sleepers?" she began, and added hurriedly, "I'm one, by the way."

"So am I, as it happens," he replied. "It's often respiratory—sleep apnoea, where you keep waking up because you're choking. If not, it may be an idiosyncrasy of the brain. Is it a problem?"

"Not for me. Not really. I go back to sleep."

He nodded. "You could get yourself checked for sleep apnoea. It's pretty easy to monitor sleep patterns. You don't look at risk to me, though—it tends to affect heavier people."

That had been the end of the conversation, as another guest had addressed the table at large and private conversations had trailed off. But now, lying in bed, in one of these brief periods of nocturnal wakefulness that she had decided were the product of brain idiosyncrasy rather than breathing problems, Isabel turned and looked at the sleeping form of Jamie beside her. She still experienced a sense of novelty, even if they had been together for a couple of years now; a sense of having been given a precious gift. And he felt it too; he had expressed it that way, too, when he told her that he was grateful for her. "I feel that I've been given something," he said. "Somebody has given me you. Isn't that odd? Because it doesn't happen that way, does it?" She watched him breathing. The sheet that he had drawn up to his chest and that lay crumpled about him like a Roman toga moved almost imperceptibly, but still moved. The act of breathing was not really an act at all, as the will played no part. We did not tell ourselves to breathe—except sometimes, in yoga classes and the like—and when we were asleep, as Jamie was now, the system itself remembered to do what was required. And how many of the other things we did fell into that category?

Isabel wondered what a detailed record of our day's activities would look like—not a record of the sort that might appear in a diary: Went into town. Had lunch. That kind of thing gave a broad-brush account of what we did but did not list the really particular, the hundreds—tens of thousands probably—of little actions in a person's day. We did such things all the time: tiny movements of the limbs as we sat in a chair or lay in bed, as she did now; little twitches, the flickering of the eyelids, the touching of the fingers, the inclining of the head. Those were nothing really—background noise, one might say—but they would all be religiously entered in this record of the day. And then there were the things we said—the speech acts, as philosophers called them—which ranged from the ums and ers, the muttered phrases of apology on bumping into somebody in a crowd, the meaningless expressions that lubricated our social dealings with one another. A transcript of our speech over the space of a day would make sobering reading, Isabel thought; and over a lifetime? What would we have said? What would it amount to? How much energy would we have wasted on the smallest of small talk; how many months would be filled with sheer nonsense?

And then, as often as not, when the time came to talk, really to talk, we were tongue-tied, as could happen to people at the bedsides of the dying, when there was an urgency that cried out for big things to be said, and we found that we could say very little, or that tears made it impossible to speak. Isabel remembered once visiting an aunt on her father's side who did not have long to live; she had wanted to thank her for her generosity to her as a girl, and although she had managed to say the words that expressed her gratitude, the aunt, known for her coruscating wit, had simply said, "Flattery will get you everywhere," and later that afternoon had died. But at least she had been thanked. "Flattery will get you everywhere" were memorable last words, if indeed the aunt had said nothing more after Isabel left her bedside, which she thought was probably the case. It would be a perfectly presentable final sentence, although not as witty, perhaps, as Oscar Wilde's gazing in dismay at the decoration surrounding his deathbed and saying, by way of farewell, "Either that wallpaper goes or I do."

If a transcription of our day's speech would make uncomfortable reading, how much more dismaying, perhaps, would be a record of our thoughts. For a moment she imagined how it would look. A mixture of memories, fleeting and prolonged, what-if speculations, idle observations, regrets—that would be its shape for most of us, and for most of us, too, the leitmotiv would be . . . Isabel paused, unwilling to reach a conclusion so solipsistic, but unable to avoid it: the leitmotiv would be me. It was that simple. Most of us, most of the time, were thinking about ourselves.

But was that really bleak, or just human? We were, after all, ourselves; that was all we really knew, and the only point from which we could act. We could think of others, of course, and did, but such thoughts were often about others in the context of ourselves—what they had said to us, what they had done to us.

She looked at Jamie, who stirred.

"Jamie," she whispered. She had not intended to, but did. She uttered his name, as if to confirm the fact that he was there; we named things and they became more real.

He stirred again. A person's name is the one thing he hears even in sleep.

"So . . . ," he muttered drowsily.

"Are you awake?" Isabel whispered.

"Am now . . . ," although his eyes were still shut.

"Sorry," she said. "I won't talk to you any more."

He reached out a hand. There was a three-quarters moon outside and an elongated rectangle of light came in through the chink in the curtains. She would have to replace those curtains; Grace, her housekeeper, had been going on about that for years now. "Those curtains, they're ancient, Isabel, and the lining has rotted, you know."

She gazed at Jamie's forearm in the moonlight; flesh made silver. She took his hand in hers and held it lightly. She wanted to cry, from sheer happiness, but he would really wake up if he heard her crying those tears of joy and think that something was wrong. Men, on the whole, did not understand crying for happiness, as women did. There were so many different sorts of tears.

She thought: I shall not think. And that thought, a prompting that denied itself, worked as it always did—she drifted off to sleep, holding Jamie's hand. When she awoke to the sound of Charlie gurgling in his cot in the next-door room, she found that miraculously Jamie's hand was still in hers, as lovers will sometimes find that through the night they have cleaved together and are still thus arranged in the innocent light of morning.

THAT DAY WAS A FRIDAY, a day that Isabel always enjoyed very much, although Saturday was her absolute favourite. She had the usual feelings about Monday, a day that she had never heard anybody speak up for, although it must have had its defenders; workaholics, perhaps, found Monday intoxicating in its promise of a whole week of work ahead, but for others, in her experience, it was more commonly Fridays or Saturdays that were favoured. In her case, Friday had been further boosted by Jamie's usually being free on that day, which meant that they could do things together, taking Charlie off on an outing somewhere, or she could use part of the day to catch up on Review affairs while Jamie entertained their son. Whichever of these she chose, there was a very satisfactory feeling of making a choice that was unconstrained by necessity. If she worked on a Friday, she did so because she wanted to, not because she had to; and if she went off somewhere with Charlie, it was similarly a matter of doing what she wished.

Occasionally Jamie had to work on a Friday evening, if he was summoned to play with the chamber orchestra that relied on him when a bassoon was called for. Sometimes he would also be needed on a Friday for session work—a recording of music for a film, perhaps—but that rarely happened, and Fridays had remained more or less free ever since he had given up taking pupils on that day. These pupils were his bread and butter; he taught some of them at the Edinburgh Academy, the school on the north side of the city where he gave music lessons part-time, and others had their lessons in his flat in Saxe-Coburg Street, round the corner from the Academy. At the moment, he had told Isabel, they were not very good, although one or two of them could be competent players if they tried. But they did not practise, in spite of the exhortations he wrote in their notebooks about scales and exercises.

"Of course, Charlie will practise diligently," Isabel had said. "When he starts playing his . . ." She looked at Jamie. He had said something once about miniature bassoons—something called a tenoroon. Somehow she could not picture a reduced bassoon, with miniature levers and shrunken key-work, being played by Charlie in his Macpherson tartan rompers.

Jamie understood her hesitation as a sign that it would be for him to decide the shape of Charlie's musical education.

"Violin," he said. "Let's start him on strings. And anyway, they can't blow wind instruments until they're much older. Nine is probably the earliest. Before that their lungs aren't strong enough and they can easily damage their lips. The muscles around the lips are still forming, you see."

She smiled at the thought of Charlie with his unformed lips and a violin. He would attempt to eat it if she gave him one now, but they could start when he was three, which would come soon enough. And then, after the violin, when he was old enough, ten or so, he could learn the Highland bagpipes, starting on a practice chanter before proceeding to a real set, ebony drones and all, to the full, primeval wail that sent shivers down the spine. He would wear the kilt—Macpherson tartan again—and play the pipes; oh, Charlie, dear little Charlie.

That Friday, Jamie had no commitments and Isabel decided that, although she might take advantage of his presence to do some work in the earlier part of the morning, she would suggest that they should all go into town for lunch together. She had promised to see her accountant, but she had been putting it off; he had telephoned with an offer to come and see her if she would not come to him. She felt guilty about that, as he was a mild man with the air of one who was long-suffering, as no doubt he was.

"I can only do so much with the figures I'm given, Isabel," he had told her. "I can't make things up, you know; we don't work that way." She wondered whether this implied that she worked that way—making things up.

She had assured him she would give him what he wanted, and had dutifully put printing bills and postage receipts for the Review into a folder . . . until she had somehow forgotten. She had scrambled around and a few missing receipts had turned up, but not everything, she suspected.

"I have to see Ronnie," she said to Jamie. "I have to give him some papers. It shouldn't take too long. Then we can go to Glass and Thompson for lunch. Charlie likes their quiche." And he had indeed liked it on their last visit, even if most of it had ended up on the floor around the table. Charlie had sophisticated likes, his parents were finding out to their surprise; he enjoyed olives, and would wave his hands at the sight of quail eggs. It was almost a parody of the tastes of the privileged baby and Isabel felt slightly embarrassed at the thought of it. She did not remember giving him his first olive—it would never have occurred to her to do so; had Jamie done that? And quail eggs? Would it be oysters next? It was Jamie, she decided; he tended to feed Charlie with whatever they were eating, and Charlie never refused anything from his father.

Jamie was happy with the suggestion. Isabel could make an early start in her study while he took Charlie down to the canal in the jogging pushchair, the one that allowed him to run while pushing. Then Charlie could have his mid-morning sleep and be bright and ready for the outing into town.

They breakfasted together. Jamie, who did not like to eat anything very much before a run, had a cup of milky coffee and a slice of toast spread with Marmite. Charlie had rather more: a small carton of strawberry yoghurt, mashed-up boiled egg on fingers of toast, and an olive, stoned, of course, and cut into four minute parts.

Grace arrived before they had left the table. She fussed over Charlie, who waved his arms enthusiastically, his unambiguous signal of pleasure.

"Pleased to see me?" cooed Grace, hanging her hemp shopping bag on the hook on the back of the kitchen door. "Of course you are, you wee champion! And what's that they're giving you to eat? An olive. Surely not? Bairns don't like olives, no they don't."

Isabel glanced at Jamie, who smiled, and looked away; disagreements between Isabel and Grace were not his affair, and he tried to keep out of them. Privately he sided with Isabel and she knew that she had his support, but they were both aware that it did not help to declare it.

"Some bairns do," said Isabel. "This one, for example."

Grace ignored this. Still addressing Charlie, she continued, "It'll be quail eggs next, my goodness! And caviar after that."

"Small children like all sorts of things," said Isabel. "They're people, after all, and people have peculiar tastes and beliefs." The reference to beliefs slipped in; she had not really intended it, but it rounded off the observation nicely, and was tossed in rather like a depth-charge, thought Jamie. He looked at Isabel with concern. There had been a discussion between the two women the previous week about feng shui, in which Grace had enthused about chi forces and Isabel had expressed the view that they simply did not exist. If they did, she said, then surely we could detect them with some sort of electronic apparatus. This reference to peculiar beliefs was about that, Jamie thought. The debates about olives and chi forces were minutely intertwined.

Grace had stood her ground during that discussion. "There are plenty of things nobody can see," she said. "What about that particle thingy that they're trying to find. That Higgs bison, or whatever."

"Boson," Jamie had interjected. "Higgs boson. It's a sort of . . ."

"Boson," said Isabel. "I saw Professor Higgs the other day, you know. He was walking along Heriot Row looking down at the pavement."

"He won't find his boson down there," said Grace.

"He wouldn't have been looking for it," said Jamie. "It exists only in the mathematics he did. It's a theory."

The argument about unseen forces had continued for some minutes and remained unresolved; both sides were sure of their position and both were sure that they had won. This reference now to peculiar beliefs threatened to reopen the issue, which Jamie did not think was a good idea. Fortunately, Grace paid no attention to it and changed the subject. There was a load of washing to be put in the machine, and did Isabel want Charlie's clothes dealt with now or later? And there was the question of the vacuum cleaner, which had stopped working the previous day; had Isabel phoned, as she had promised, about that?

"I shall," said Isabel. "Today. Definitely. I'll put it on my list."

Grace had nodded, and gone off to begin her tasks.

"Quail eggs," whispered Jamie. "She really disapproves."

Isabel nodded. "Mind you, it is outrageous," she said. "What sort of child have we produced, Jamie? Quail eggs!"

He smiled. He loved her. He loved Charlie. He even loved Grace, in a way. It was a perfect morning, the best sort of early summer morning, and all he felt was love.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Why is this novel called “The Lost Art of Gratitude”? Who is, or should be, grateful? Why is it a lost art?

2. One of Isabel’s guiding principles is “moral proximity”: If someone you know is in trouble, you must try to help—a notion that Jamie seems to consider meddling. In what ways does this make Isabel’s life more fulfilling? And more difficult? What do you think Isabel gets out of this?

3. On page 15, Isabel muses about her life: “She used to think that her major achievement in life had been the editing of the Review, or perhaps her doctorate; she no longer thought so—now she felt that the most important thing she had done was to give birth to a whole new life, a whole new set of possibilities.” What does this say about her as a philosopher? As a mother?

4. “Perfect villains have to live somewhere, and even the most innocent-looking suburb can conceal its surprises” (p. 21). How does this notion play out over the course of the novel? Is there a perfect villain within Isabel’s circle?

5. What role does money play in the novel? How does Minty’s wealth affect the way Isabel deals with her? Are there other instances in which money affects characters’ behavior?

6. “Stoicism and defeatism, of course, can be kissing cousins, but Isabel would never find fault in Jamie’s quite exceptional ability to accept setbacks” (p. 47). What does this tell us about Isabel and Jamie’s relationship? How does Isabel respond to setbacks? Is this a function of the difference in their ages?

7. Isabel thinks quite a bit about Scotland, almost as if it were a character in its own right. What point is Alexander McCall Smith trying to make?

8. “Yes, she thought, our very ordinary freedoms were being rapidly eroded by the nanny state, but it was difficult to make the point without sounding strident, or like an opponent of motherhood and apple pie. So she had done nothing to defend these freedoms, which made her . . . the realisation was a shocking one: it made her one of Christopher Dove’s free riders” (p. 101). How does the notion of free riders play into the larger plot of the novel? Who else is accepting a free ride, and how?

9. Discuss the plagiarism subplot. What purpose does it serve? What does Isabel’s handling of the situation tell us about her character?

10. Two of Isabel’s acquaintances refer to Minty as “wicked” (p. 181). Do you agree with that assessment? Ultimately, does Isabel?

11. Given the way Isabel dispatched Christopher Dove and Professor Lettuce, what do you think about the suggestion that she is an “enforcer” who “specialised in ruining reputations” (p. 195)? Would Isabel concede that there is symmetry between the plagiarism episode and the Minty/Jock affair?

12. On page 252, Isabel explains the liar paradox, and ends by reassuring Minty that she won’t divulge her secret. What point is she trying to make? Why does Isabel choose to keep her word to someone who has told so many lies?

13. Discuss Isabel’s relationship with Cat. How does Isabel treat her niece? What does she expect from her?

14. Reread the song lyrics on page 261. How do they reflect upon the events of the novel? What does the song say about Jamie’s feelings toward Isabel?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 28 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2010

    Another charming addition to the series!

    Isabel and Jamie are such "regular folks." I feel like they are my neighbors, or people I'd be likely to interact with. This series of books is delightful.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Another great installment in the Isabel Dalhousie series

    Once again Alexander McCall Smith has won my heart and mind with his portrayal of Isabel Dalhousie, a forty-something philospher and mother of Charlie, her son with Jamie, whom she still sometimes fears she may have stolen from her foolish and fickle niece who didn't find in him what Isabel found -- perfection. What a delightful fairy tale these novels tell! What middle-aged woman wouldn't want to be loved by a perfect young man and have a beautiful young son whose first word is "olive"?

    McCall Smith unfailingly captures the essence of women's thought processes and makes me, his faithful reader, feel as if I am not alone in my own idiosyncracies. The novel, like the others in the series, is "talky," but with good reason. As a philosopher Isabel must think about everything and must decide if she is being morally correct in each of her decisions. I find that her deliberations are so like my own that with each new novel, I am reassured a bit more that I am not crazy for thinking things through much as she does. Isabel is totally sane; therefore, I must be sane as well. It is very reassuring to find a soulmate in this woman I respect and admire, a woman who leads a rather normal, quiet, domestic life, but who must consider choices that come her way.

    Isabel is unfailingly intelligent and perceptive and, in short, my idol. She is refreshing and delightful. Her stories never fail to move me to some deeper understanding of myself as a modern woman facing ordinary choices that require more depth of thought than just what to have for dinner.

    Thank you again, Alexander McCall Smith, for your wonderful Isabel, who like Precious Ramotswe, is a woman who makes the rest of us women glad to be what we are and to have a kind man who appreciates our odd little ways. I hope your own wife enjoys your books as much as I do.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    You probably know all about McCall-Smith by now

    Alexander McCall Smith is awfully special. I am continually amazed that there is so much of life in his calm stories, that there is so much for us to ruminate about and apply to our own lives. In this series, and in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, McCall Smith channels older women. Perhaps they are unreal, as some readers have pointed out--I certainly can make a claim that his male characters don't seem quite fleshed out in the American sense. That is, I have never met men like Jaime, say, or some of the others. But when I sit down with them I feel as though I am meeting friends over a cuppa, and we can natter on about nearly anything. I find it very warming and generous and kind.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I Like Gratitude

    I liked this book because I like reading about Scotland. I also like the relationship between Isabel and Jamie. Minty was a evil character but I wanted to see what happened to her. I recommend this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 22, 2012

    another delightful Isabel Dalhousie adventure

    I am a big fan of this series. The way that Isabel's thoughts take her places totally unrelated to the subject at hand sometimes make me laugh out loud. For example, her imagining Cat's (now ex) boyfriend traveling the high wire in his elevator shoes was a great mental image. I also like her inner arguments with herself: when she is judgmental, she quickly reminds herself that she may be being unfair. The quirks, the snatches of poetry, the love for Jamie and Charlie, it all adds up to a wonderful and gently thought provoking read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2010

    McCall-Smith does it again!

    This is a lovely read for anyone who has enjoyed the first 5 books in the Isabel Dalhousie series. Couldn't wait to get my hands on it and I was not disappointed. However, I think it's about time that Isabel learns how to set her boundaries with Dove and Lettuce, because they continue to walk all over her because of her strange understanding of what forgiveness means.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Wonderful tale

    Feeling a bit paranoid investment banker Minty Auchterlonie fears someone detests her so much that they are trying to harm her. First government tax agents are investigating her though she has no idea why suddenly they are doing it unless someone tipped them off. Second she received a funeral wreath from an unknown sender.

    At a child's birthday party, Minty tells her friend Scottish philosopher Isabel Dalhouse, whose not quite two year old son Charlie is at the bash, that she believes someone is after her. Isabel investigates using skills honed by being the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. She questions the most likely suspect Jock Dundas, who believes he sired Minty's son during an affair they had; he wants time with his alleged offspring or he will expose her to her spouse Gordon McCaig. Meanwhile her enemy accuses Isabel of failing to prevent plagiarism at the Review and her lover Jamie asks her to marry him so they and their son Charlie can be a family.

    If you seek a bit more action turn to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency tales. However as with Precious's detecting, Isabel is a great focus who holds the intelligent slice of life plot together (see The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday). Character driven, readers will enjoy this sage saga as evil comes in many shapes, but never a Dove as Isabel learns first hand The Lost Art Of Gratitude as no one seems to appreciate her efforts.

    Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

    Wonderful

    His usual excellent writing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    The Lost Art of Gratitude

    McCall Smith keeps getting better!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)