Monday, May 29, 2006

More Books...


So I have continued on my Alexander McCall Smith kick and read The Sunday Philosophy Club, the first in the author’s Isabel Dalhousie series. This series follows Ms. Dalhousie, the editor of a philosophy magazine, as she grapples with all the moral dilemmas encountered as she investigates the death of a young man. Without given too much away, one of the things I liked about this book was that all the many storylines introduced were very realistically resolved- what I mean by this is that it didn’t com together into one tidy conclusion. Everything was resolved but not at all in the way I anticipated. Some stories that seemed central to the plot ended up with very simple conclusions, unrelated too much of the action, and I liked this about the story. Life is messy, and even our brilliant heroine couldn’t quite make heads or tails of the situations presented to her.

Having now read books in three of McCall Smith’s series, I can say that this series is the one where he lets his scholarly background run free. In The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, his heroine makes observations about life and what it is to be human, delving into the joys and sorrows of everyday life. In 44 Scotland Street, the author is writing about Edinburgh, his home city, and the quirkiness of those who live in it. The Philosophy Club series is full of discussions about philosophers and complex ethical issues, and the author spends a lot of time on tangents on concepts of this type. At first I felt that this was too be my least favorite of his characters so far (as Isabel is a independently wealthy woman who sits around pondering highly intellectual mysteries); however, I very much enjoyed this book and really did like all the characters introduced. I find it interesting that McCall Smith writes books with strong women lead characters. Stay tuned for more, as I have just started the sequel…


So I did (temporarily) break my trend of reading McCall Smith books, and picked up Grendel, a bizarre little novel which landed on our bookshelf via a bag of used books that circulated amongst our social circle (and was obviously a book used in one a class, as there were highlights and notes throughout the book- thanks, Paula!) The book is quite famous, but for those who do not know, it is the story of the years leading up to the arrival of Beowulf told through the eyes of the monster Grendel. It was more difficult too read than I anticipated, but once you get into it the story moves along at a good clip. This is an intriguing premise for someone with a sociological back-ground to read, because, though Grendel IS a monster, who he is really was dictated by the environment in which he grew up (loneliness, rejection, hostility from others). I found myself thinking of inner city kids who “go bad” because it’s a survival mode for a harsh environment. And while I was reading I kept thinking of another book where the story is told from a similar perspective- nihilistic and antagonistic toward others- and I realized it was the narrator character from Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky. This was a good read. Pick it up if you’re in the mood.

On a related note, a Google-search led me to this.

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