The Forgotten Affairs of Youth

by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardcover, 2011

Call number




Pantheon (2011), Edition: 1st Us Edition, 272 pages


Isabel and her fiancé know who they are and where they come from. But not everybody is so fortunate. Jane Cooper, a visiting Australian philosopher on sabbatical in Edinburgh, has more questions than answers. Adopted at birth, Jane is trying to find her biological father, but all she knows about him is that he was a student in Edinburgh years ago. When she asks for Isabel's help in this seemingly impossible search ... well, of course Isabel obliges.

Media reviews

The Toronto Star
The principal mystery in McCall Smith’s latest novel featuring the wise but impish Edinburgh philosopher Isabel Dalhousie turns on a visiting Australian academic who is searching for her birth father. As usual, McCall Smith makes a little plot go a long way, mostly by dressing up Edinburgh with countless small adventures and gentle observations.

User reviews

LibraryThing member dsc73277
This may not be Nobel Prize winning material but, in my view, it still deserves a full five stars for succeeding in being exactly what it aims to be: a gentle and comforting read that is nonetheless aware of the pitfalls that await even those living the most privileged of lives. Financially secure philosopher Isabel Dalhousie owns and edits and academic journal, when she is not losing time thinking too much or getting entangled in other people's business. In this installment of the series she assists a fellow philosopher who is seeking the identity of her natural father.… (more)
LibraryThing member Clara53
Another little gem from Alexander McCall Smith... Excellent thinking, great writing...
LibraryThing member delphimo
Smith's Dalhousie series centers on philosophical attitudes. Sometimes I feel that Isabel is a little snobbish and self-centered. In this caper, Isabel aids a woman in the search of her biological father. Isabel and Jamie finally marry. Isabel reports her niece, Cat, to Environmental Health department, which I feel is deplorable. Isabel is generous with her money, but seems snobbish in her handling of financial affairs. Isabel also jumps to quick assumptions on people, especially Cat's choice of men. Also, Isabel's obsessive behavior with her young son, Charlie, is humorous. The son eats olive and sardines and he is only 2.… (more)
LibraryThing member arielfl
Thank you to Pantheon for providing me with a copy of this book to review.

I love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Every spring I highly anticipate the new book in that series. While I love that series I just kind of really like the Sunday Philosophy Club, at least enough to keep reading each new entry. In this go around we find Isabel assisting a fellow visiting philosopher with investigating her family tree. As is often the case there is a tricky moral dilemma associated with this case and Isabel is left debating whether she did the correct thing. There are also some philosophical explorations of God and the meaning of living a spiritual life. Cat is as dismal and mean spirited as ever. I have lost patience with her and honestly can't see why Isabel keeps bothering with her. On the positive side Brother Fox has a son and a significant development is made in Isabel's personal life. You can count this in as another sweet and heart warming addition to the series.… (more)
LibraryThing member khiemstra631
Isabel is back along with Jamie, Charlie and Grace. Charlie is now a toddler, beginning to talk and make his personality known to his parents. Meanwhile, a visiting philosopher from Australia, who was born in Scotland, enlists Isabel's help to find her birth father. There's the usual tension with Cat at the delicatessen. All in all, it's more of the usual in the life of Isabel Dalhousie, and it's charming as usual. If you like Isabel, then you will enjoy this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member lynndp
This is the eighth Isabel Dalhousie story. In a nutshell, Isabel and Jamie get married. --- This isn't exactly the right word, but for me personally, the most recent Isabel stories have become just a bit too "precious". Will I read the next one? Yes, because when Isabel's thoughts are interesting...they are very interesting. This book just didn't capture my imagination the way the earlier books did.… (more)
LibraryThing member PeskyLibrary
The Forgotten Affairs of Youth continues Alexander McCall Smith’s series of books centering on the Edinburghian philosopher Isabel Dalhousie, now a young mother. Two main things concern Isabel in this novel: her niece and a case of food poisoning, and tracking down the parents of an Edinburgh-born Australian given up for adoption as a child.
I came onto McCall Smith and Dalhousie a complete novice: this is the first book by him I’ve read. There is no major plot in the sense that thrillers and mysteries have a (fast-paced) plot. Instead, most of the novel is spent on Isabel’s thoughts on what is happening in her life and whether what she is doing is actually what she should be doing. While McCall Smith gives enough information for newcomers to get the hang of things, long-time fans should get the most out of this skillfully written installation.
EJ 01/2012
… (more)
LibraryThing member Lynn_Barker
Isabel Dalhousie is a thinker. McCall Smith's narrative, as in the #1 Ladies... is slow-moving to accommodate her deep thoughts and delightful tangents. Dalhousie's friends often ask her what she is smiling about, which is the amusing thoughts that occur to her. In this novel, she assists a new friend to trace her natural parents. Having visited Edinburgh once myself, I particularly appreciated the schematic map on the inside cover. It enables the reader to trace Isabel's movements around what she describes as a "spiky" city.… (more)
LibraryThing member ccayne
Pleasant but weak. I absolutely cannot picture Isabel as a young woman and I don't know why. In my mind, she's about 45 yet I know she's not.
LibraryThing member 4leschats
When Isabel meets a woman searching for her birth father, she agrees to help as usual. Other elements of family from Grace calling herself Charlie’s aunt, Isabel’s relationship with Cat, her engagement and pending marriage to Jamie, meeting Dove’s nephew, as well as reflecting on past relationships allows Isabel to see the complexities of how we define family. As usual Isabel's reflections turn philosophical.… (more)
LibraryThing member baystateRA
Another excellent narration by Davina Porter! Eighth in a sequence of books about classy, middle-aged Isabel Dalhousie, owner/editor of a philosophy journal and everyday philosopher, this seemed a little light on surprises, but does move the story of Isabel and her younger lover Jamie along. Still has plenty of Isabel's musings and sharpish thoughts (the latter of which she mostly manages to keep to herself.)… (more)
LibraryThing member ritaer
Not actually much detection or mystery in this installment of the life of moral philosopher Isabel Dalhousie. Perhaps the audio version made me more aware of the extreme talkiness of the book, since one cannot skim. Enjoyable, but does drag a bit.
LibraryThing member flydodofly
I do not understand why I keep doing it: I go to the library, get a bunch of books, and one of them is a McCall Smith one. I read it, and think to myself that I will not get another one, because they are a waste of reading time, somehow. I cannot explain exactly what I mean. I expect books to reveal something new, to make me think, to entertain. His books do not do any of the above, but I still read them, and I do not stop until I get to the end. Reading McCall Smith's books is almost like not reading them, they are so easy to read, inoffensive, innocuous, almost like drinking a glass of water. I do not know whether I look forward to the next one or not, but I am sure it will come my way...… (more)
LibraryThing member GeoffSC
It was pleasent to spend some time in Edinburgh with Isabelle and her family, see what they are up to, see how Charlie is growing ...
Annother enjoyable book by Alexander Mcall Smith.
LibraryThing member lhaines56
An Australian philosopher comes to Scotland and meets up with Isabel in hopes of tracing her real parents. I hadn't realized how far ahead I had jumped into the series and she and Jame are together with a baby!!!!




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