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The last fiction book I read with my eyes (as opposed to reading by listening to an audiobook) was Alexander McCall Smith’s The Forgotten Affairs of Youth. McCall Smith, if you don’t know his work, is extremely prolific and has a few different series on the boil (the most famous of which would be The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books featuring Precious Ramotswe). The Forgotten Affairs of Youth is part of the Sunday Philosophy Club series and features another female lead, Isabel Dalhousie. She’s the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, lives in her beloved Edinburgh with her (much younger) fiancé Jamie and their son Charlie.

I think Isabel is basically McCall Smith’s vehicle for exploring various ethical and moral dilemmas that interest him; she has a habit of wandering off mid-sentence to think about something completely tangential to the topic at hand, and it’s described as one of her quirky character traits. I suspect if you knew someone who did that in real life it would drive you nuts, but I find her quite endearing on the page.

I also find her lifestyle appealing – editor of a journal, collector of art, mother to a small child, engaged to a gorgeous and kind hearted classical musician, independently wealthy due to an inheritance. She reads, thinks, meets with people to chat, works at her niece’s deli cafe every now and again, wanders around Edinburgh. It’s all very conveniently packaged, even if she does have complications from time to time…it serves me well to remember that she’s a fictional character and nobody’s life is that neat!

McCall Smith has quite a knack for writing great female characters. Mum is a fan of McCall Smith’s books, and has almost all of them, so it’s quite nice to have a ready made library to dip in and out of. His style is light, and although there might be shadows throughout the books, everything invariably ends up well. That might sound a bit too smug or neat, but it doesn’t come across that way. His books are like drinking a lovely rich, warming cup of hot chocolate.