Thursday, December 29, 2011

Approachable Star, Approachable Story

After a hiatus of, what has it been, 3 weeks? and 1 book, I'm back with *yet another* AMS.  This one actually just published, the latest Isabel Dalhousie.  I've reviewed at least one of these before on the site, but I'm not going to go back and read it, because, as you know, I like my reviews fresh :) This series is the least popular one amongst the Swia. public - that is, the Sp's don't even read it.  It used to be my favorite, since it featured a very satisfying, if a little unusual (the unusual is what bothered the Sp's) romance.  But that's been long over (or long-settled), so what's left? Isabel herself and her many musings.  AMS is fond of philosophical ramblings of course, but in these books he's given extra license to digress on whatever he fancies, possessing of the perfect mouthpiece in one who philosophizes by profession.

As you can imagine, that can get annoying.  Especially when I disagree with Isabel, but also because spending so much time delving into every perceived moral dilemma does not make for thrills and chills all day (not that that's what I'm looking for anyway :)) And at times, that was definitely my prevailing feeling while reading Isabel #... 8? I think it's 8 - The Forgotten Affairs of Youth.  She goes on and on about this or that and my feeling is, it just doesn't matter that much, lady.  AMS presents her as the gentle, refined, and cultured woman, but it's hard not to find her boring at times.  And because she's boring, she becomes unlikeable, since AMS is so clearly enamored of her carefully crafted thoughts, feelings, and lifestyle (in other words, we have a Mary Sue).

That was sometimes... and more at the beginning, I'm glad to say.  As usual, somewhere along the way, the pace picked up.  But it wasn't just the plot development - interestingly enough, I actually found myself liking Isabel, a lot more than I have in a while.  For once, she isn't left as this rather inhuman pillar of morality and thought  - to a much greater extent than I think ever (or at least in the past few books) previously, we are invited into her inner life.  A vacuous phrase, but what I mean, we see how much she loves Jamie and Charlie, how she cares about Grace, how she gets frustrated with Cat.  These are things we know about, but I think not ones that took as central a role before this.  Even the obligatory "mystery" feels more personal, more about Isabel meeting people than about finding something out.  And I think it's a good change.  It's amazing how important it is to like the people you are reading about. And in this book, I find that I did like most everyone.  Cat was annoying as ever, but AMS acknowledges her "impossibility" with that very word (maybe in a different form, but that root :))

The plot itself may have been a tiny bit lacking, in that, except for the central story, loose ends were for the most part not tied up.  Not sure what happened with Charlie swearing, with Max Lettuce, with Sinclair+Cat... but I guess none of those were very important, and that was the point.  It was all about Isabel and how she handled them - and I think she did it very well, getting it right and keeping it real too.  Isabel is fun again, at least for the moment. (Ok, not sure she ever was, but she certainly wasn't always as stodgy as lately).

Verdict: 3.25/5

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