I have finished the 47th book for the book challenge. It was The Careful Use Of Compliments: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (No.5 ) by Alexander McCall Smith.
Book No. 5 of this series finds Isabel at home. She has had her baby Charlie three month ago and is quite happy and very content with her life. If only her niece Cat would be a bit more forgiving and accept that Isabel and Jamie are a couple. Cat was the one who dumped Jamie. Isabel did not steal Jamie from Cat. Can’t she remember that?
Jamie has kept his flat and Isabel has, of course, maintained her house with Charlie. Grace comes every day and now cares for Charlie, too. Grace is quite happy caring for Charlie, though it has caused a bit of friction between Isabel and Grace, notably over the use of gripe water. Isabel remember the old gripe water that contained gin. The new gripe water contains only herbs and is soothing to babies, she now realizes, after she is forced to use it. Jamie come to the house several times a week after his lessons and often makes dinner. He bathes Charlie and plays with him, and spend the night. He has asked Isabel to marry him. Isabel has put him off and told him to wait, hoping he’ll ask again at another time. When Isabel is thinking of bidding on a painting at auction, this sparks a discussion on Isabel’s financial situation. Jamie is quite shocked when Isabel tells him how well off she is.
A McInnes painting is offered at auction. It is a rather large painting of Jura and quite similar to the small one that Isabel has in her home. She would like to bid on it. It is a bit expensive but she decides to bid on it. Jamie goes with her to the auction. She is out bid by someone and decides to let the painting go. But one of her friends who is there and who owns a gallery has another painting by McInnes that is similar and who offers that to her. She says she will think about it. Then the man who won the bidding on the McInnes decides that he wants to sell it to Isabel. Isabel goes to see it at his home. His name is Walter Buie. There is something about the two paintings that is bothering Isabel but she isn’t sure what. She say she will think about buying the painting.
Isabel gets word that the editorial board of the Review of Applied Ethics is making a change of editor. They want to make Dr. Christopher Dove the new editor. Isabel is very upset when she gets the letter from Professor Lettuce. It doesn’t seem right that she has given so many years to editing this review and increasing the readership and now to have it pulled away and given to this arrogant fool. Dove comes to see her and berates her for destroying some old letters and notes that she had, especially from Bertrand Russell. He was very pompous. Cat comes in while Dove is there and the sparks fly. Dove, who is visiting from London, asks if he can take Cat out to dinner. Cat offers to show him around Edinburg.
Isabel decides that she will have her solicitor buy the Review of Applied Ethics. She will appoint a new editorial board that is favorable to her and she will resume her post as editor. She has her solicitor draw up the letters to Lettuce and Dove after she has purchase the Review to let them know. Cat is now dating Dove. Isabel receives a very nasty letter from Dove. It is in a recycled envelope. She notices the label to her is placed over a letter addressed to “Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Dove.” Dove is married. Isabel goes to tell Cat that Dove has not been honest with her. Cat becomes upset with Isabel for telling her. Isabel is upset with herself for upsetting Cat. Isabel then finds out that Dove is divorcing his wife. She tells Cat, but Cat has dropped Dove and moved on to an Irish stonemason. Things between Isabel and Cat are all right.
Isabel and Jamie go to Jura for a holiday, prompted because of the paintings of Jura and because of the McInnes paintings. They had previously visited McInnes’s widow and young son and seen how tenderly the woman was with him and how lovingly she referred to McInnes to her small son. They saw the whirlpool where he drowned off the coast of Jura. They saw a painting in the house where they stayed that was remarkably similar to the paintings that Isabel is thinking of buying. When they asked about it, they were told that it was by a local man called Frank Anderson. Isabel now believes that the two paintings are forgeries, painted by this Frank Anderson. While on Jura, Isabel and Jamie visit the house where George Orwell wrote 1984. When Isabel returns to Edinburg, she calls her friend at the gallery to say she won’t be buying the painting and to voice her suspicions. Then she returns to Walter Buie’s home to tell him about her suspicions. His mother is there and from their conversation, Isabel realizes that Mrs. Buie is saying that McInnes is alive, that he is painting under the name if Frank Anderson. He didn’t drown in the whirlpool; he survived. Isabel goes to find him and talks to him; she tells him she knows his secret and that she won’t tell anyone, but that he shouldn’t ask Mrs. Buie to pass off anymore paintings as posthumous McInnes paintings and gets a promise from him to forgive his wife and to go and see his young son. She returns to the Buies and decides to buy the painting from them. She calls her gallery friend and he returns the painting to Mrs. Buie.
The book ends with Isabel and Jamie in bed, content and happy, but looking forward to the next chapter in their life together.
I love the Isabel Dalhousie novels. I love the descriptions of Edinburg. I’ve never been there but McCall Smith is so thorough in his word pictures that you can feel yourself moving along the cobblestone streets with Isabel and going into the shops with her. The island of Jura appears to be someplace where I would love to spend some time. Indeed, you envy Isabel her beautiful Scotland. I enjoy Isabel’s moral dilemmas as well. She makes me think about what I would do in a similar situation. That’s why I like this series.