Bruce's Reviews > The Careful Use of Compliments

The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith
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May 13, 09

Read in May, 2009

I ran out of reading material twenty-four hours before the end of a recent trip and needed something to fill the flight home, so I picked this book up expecting nothing special; I found it, however, to be most enjoyable. Smith’s protagonist, Isabel Dalhousie, is a philosopher and the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics in Edinburgh, Scotland. The story is a rather meandering one, plot being a bit secondary and the “mystery” being a little unessential, but Smith’s characterizations are strong and deft, his probings of individual psychologies nuanced and perceptive. Written largely in simple declarative sentences, metaphors being neither frequent nor striking, the writing itself is not noteworthy, but Smith has taken ample opportunity to posit endless ethical dilemmas within the context of everyday life in a way that is thought provoking and interesting. He also skillfully weaves allusions to writers like Hume, Auden, and Murdoch, into the narrative. I liked the book, finding it to be a smooth and gentle read. While I probably will not intentionally seek out others of his books to read, I would not hesitate to pick up another in an airport should I run short of reading material in the future.
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