“A Distant View of Everything” by Alexander McCall Smith

This is the eleventh book in the Isabel Dalhousie series, which involves a lady who is both a philosopher and a solver of the nagging problems people can’t cope with. At their best, these books are a beautiful portrayal of small lives. McCall Smith balances the miniscule (and incidentally spices up the lack of serious excitement) with Isabel’s frequent flights of fancy, which take her into sometimes deep and often whimsical philosophical comment about the situation.
That’s at their best.
At McCall Smith’s potboiler worst, the personal problems wind down into the banal and the flights of fancy become mere distractions. In this story the plotline takes it even further, because every one of the tension-producing problems, external, marital, and internal, turn out in the end not to be problems. I suppose I should give this a spoiler alert, but I can’t see that anyone is going to care that much. The coincidental conclusion to Elizabeth’s own soul-scorching error of judgement is so fortuitous that I question whether the author is having a joke at our expense. Or maybe he is pushing the portrayal of reality one step further than most authors would dare.
Yes, these non-endings to people’s problems are realistic. But if I want to be bored by reality, I can sit and watch my own life. I read the book so that I could be entertained.
The only saving grace to the writing is that McCall Smith has not lost his fine touch for character revelation. His portrayal of the jealousy of the shop clerk, Eddie, is a work of art, a bright spot in a dull grey novel.
An author I usually enjoy, but not this time.
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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