The forgotten affairs of youth – a review

Title: The forgotten affairs of youth

Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Yan’s pick

In comparing with his other series, such as ‘The first lady detective’, this series of ‘A Isabel Dalhousie novels’ are very different. They are always set in cosyEdinburgh, with a woman ethics philosopher, Isabel Dalhousie, as the main character. She lives with her younger lover Jamie and their lovely baby son in a comfortable house.

In this book, as usual, Isabel’s niece Cat who falls love with another wired young man whom Isabel disapproves. Also as usual she doesn’t feel comfortable enough in interfering in Cat’s affair. Cat still resents the fact that Isabel took her ex-boyfriend Jamie as a fiancé and together had a baby.

This time, the philosopher doesn’t have direct confrontation with the nasty fellow philosopher Lettuce as in previous titles, but a nephew of his is going to emerge as a new focus point. Much worse, Isabel has to solve a mysterious deceit set up by Lettuce involving his nephew.

Going through daily routine, life isn’t very dramatic, but always thinking philosophically as philosophers do – to enlarge some issues which normally we wouldn’t automatically link with ‘ethics’ as Isabel does consciously, this makes the book/series interesting. Also the philosopher loves mysteries and she also loves to solve them, thus some minor mysteries are plotted in the book. This time, Isabel’s going to find the biological parents for an Australian woman working inScotlandtemporarily. This makes reading cosy and slightly uncertain at the beginning of the book.

I think through this series the author consistently reminds us that a normal life in a normal western society can still be confronting when facing ethical decisions. There aren’t any simple answers of right or wrong, but everything we do involves our own ‘ethical’ decisions consciously or unconsciously and results in consequences. Philosophers think about ‘ethics’ more consciously, while we ordinary folks act without asking ourselves the question ‘is that ethical’ every moment. So the book inspires in this regard.