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The Lost Art of Gratitude: An Isabel Dalhousie Novelby Alexander Mccall Smith
Synopses & Reviews
IT WAS WHILE she was lying in bed that Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, thought about the things we do. Isabel was a light sleeper; Charlie, her eighteen-month-old son, slept deeply and, she was sure, contentedly; Jamie was somewhere in between. Yet Isabel had little difficulty in getting to sleep. Once she made up her mind to sleep, all that she had to do was to shut her eyes and, sure enough, she would drift off. The same could be done if she surfaced in the course of the night or in those melancholy small hours when both body and spirit could be at their lowest ebb. Then all she had to do was to tell herself that this was not the time to start thinking, and she would quickly return to sleep.
She had wondered about the causes of her light sleeping and had spoken about it to a friend, a specialist in sleep disorders. She had not consulted him professionally, but had brought the matter up over dinner; not before the whole table, of course, but in the intimacy of the one-to-one conversation that people have with those sitting beside them.
I don't like to ask about medical things, she said.
But . . ., he said.
Well, yes. But. You see, you doctors must dread being buttonholed by people who want to talk about their symptoms. There you are at a party and somebody says: I've been having these twinges of pain in my stomach . . .
No, I haven't.
He smiled. The old cliché, you know. Somebody comes and says, A friend of mine has this rash, you see, and I wondered what it was. That sometimes happens. Doctors understand all about embarrassment, you know.
Isabel nodded. But it must annoy you—being asked about medical matters.
He thought for a moment. Nihil humanum mihi alienum est, if I may lapse into Latin. I don't set my mind against anything human. Doctors should subscribe to that, I think. Like priests.
Isabel did not think the comparison quite fitting. Priests do disapprove, don't they? Doctors don't—or shouldn't. You don't shake your head over your patients' behaviour, do you?
If doctors see self-destructive behaviour, they might, he said. If somebody comes in with chronic vascular disease, for example, and you smell the nicotine on his fingers, of course you're going to say something. Or a drinker comes in with liver problems. You're going to make it clear what's causing the problem.
But you don't ladle on the blame, do you? You don't say things like, This is all your own stupid fault. You don't say that, even if it patently is his stupid fault.
He played with his fork. No, I suppose not.
Whereas a priest will. A priest will use the language of right and wrong. I don't think doctors do that. She looked at him. He was typical of a certain type of Edinburgh doctor; the old-fashioned, gentle Scottish physician, unmoved by the considerations of profit and personal gain that could so disfigure medicine. That doctors should consider themselves businessmen was, Isabel had always felt, a moral tragedy for medicine. Who was left to be altruistic? Teachers, she thought, and people who worked for charities; and public-interest lawyers, and . . . in fact, the list was quite long; probably every bit as long as it ever had been. One should be careful, she told herself, in commenting on the decline of soc
Isabel and her son, Charlie, attend a birthday party, where she finds Minty Auchterlonie, the high-flying financier from "The Sunday Philosophy Club." When Minty confides to Isabel about the troubles at the investment bank she heads, Isabel wonders if Minty can be trusted.
The sensational sixth installment in the best-selling chronicles of the irrepressibly curious Isabel Dalhousie finds our inquisitive heroine and new mother racing two verytroublesome people from her past.
Isabel's son, Charlie, is only eighteen months, but his social life is already kicking into high gear, and it's ata birthday party, where Isabel is approached by Minty Auchterlonie, an old adversary and now a high-flying financier. Minty, it seems, is having trouble in her personal life, and seeks Isabel's help. To makematters worse, the anything but peaceable Professor Dove has accused Isabel's journal of plagiarism. There is also the ever-pressing question of the future of her relationship with Jamie. As always, she makes herway toward the heart of each problem by philosophizing, sleuthing, and downright snooping as only she can.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics.
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