The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday
I’ll admit it: I have an Alexander McCall Smith series I read, and it’s not the better known No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series that my mom loves. It’s the Isabel Dalhousie series, which follows a 40-something philosopher who lives in Scotland. The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday is the fifth book in the series, and one I received for Christmas even though it came out last fall, as the economy has forced this bibliophile to wait for more books to be released in paperback.
Alexander McCall Smith writes what I call ‘pseudo-mysteries,’ as the characters aren’t actually tackling crime mysteries, but rather quirks in another person’s behavior, which are then used to muse on the human existence. This is especially true in this series, as Isabel Dalhousie is the editor of a philosophy review. I can’t fault Alexander McCall Smith for writing either of these series, as he is a professor of medical law and probably needs an outlet for his happier thoughts, just as his readers do.
I consider this series light reading at it’s best: feel good, causes the reader to think at points, with solid writing that never toys with the reader’s emotions lightly. This paragraph captures a lot of what I like in this series, and about Isabel as a character:
Isabel, looking away from Stella, gazed out the window. A man was walking up Dundas Street; a man wearing a chocolate-brown corduroy jacket of the fusty, vaguely raffish sort once worn by art teachers. He stopped and patted the pockets of his jacket, as if feeling for something that he hoped he had brought with him, before glancing in through the cafe window. His eyes met Isabel’s, and he seemed to hesitate. There was recognition but no recognition. We have met one another before, thought Isabel, and we both understand that. But we do not know who the other is, which speaks eloquently, she thought, of the way we live now, knowing more and more, but less and less.
Editor’s Note: I don’t just like this paragraph because it justifies my use of the phrase “chocolate brown” in my 4th grade paragraph for the family Christmas letter (a phrasing bitterly fought by my father), but it doesn’t hurt either.