Cover Image: The Geometry of Holding Hands

The Geometry of Holding Hands

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Three figures, in a typical Celtic circle, held hands with one another , arms in a complicated pattern of intermingling . “I love that,” he said. “I think it says everything there is to be said about helping one another and loving one another and being part of . . . well, I suppose being part of something bigger than oneself.” Isabel looked . “The geometry of holding hands,”

This is the premise of another of McCall Smith's wonderful book. 

The geometry of holding hands is about a coupl-Isabel, a philosopher and Jamie, a musician as they go about leading their lives when a wealthy Edinburgh resident reaches out to Isabel with an unusual request--he would like her to become the executor of his large Highland estate. Though Isabel initially demurs, he presses on. He has only a short time to live, and, without any direct heirs, is struggling to determine which of his three cousins would be the best caretaker. Should it go to the bohemian artist, the savvy city property developer, or the quiet, unassuming bachelor?
 Isabel will need to rely upon remarkable reserves of intelligence and compassion in order to give all parties exactly what they want and deserve--no more, and no less.
Although it was a slow start to the book, it gets interesting as it goes, with a lot of philosophising on the go about daily life situations. I loved the easy banter about heavy stuff between the husband wife. I also love how issues do get sorted out in the end with ease. Another well written book from one of my fav authors!
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Wonderful book.  Awesome author.  Love everything this gentleman writes.  Everyone should read this!
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Alexander McCall Smith knows how to write a complete story full of charm and cheer. He’s an author I will always pick up, knowing I’m guaranteed an engaging read. 

This is book 13 in his Sunday Philosophy Club series. It can be read as a stand-alone, yet it’s gratifying to read as a series to follow the ongoing relationships and maturation of the characters. 

I enjoyed it within a few hours- such a comfort to catch up with Isabelle and her life!  Highly recommend this, and anything by the author.
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Ethicist Isabelle Dalhousie is asked to act as executor for a terminally ill man's estate. She doesn't know him but they have many mutual friends, a fact that makes it impossible for her to refuse his request. At the same time, her niece, Cat, is in the process of making a decision that will affect the deli and its employee, Eddie. Isabel is convinced that Leo, Cat's fiance, is pushing Cat but is not sure how she can let her know her worries about him.

The Geometry of Holding Hands is the 13th book in the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith but it is the first I have read. The story's charm and satisfying end to both Isabel's predicaments make for a very enjoyable read and I recommend it highly to anyone looking for a sweet comfort read to help get them through these trying times.  

<i>Thanks to Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for the opportunity to read tis book in exchange for an honest review</i>
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The latest in the Sunday Philosophy Club series, and a lovely warm hug of a book too! Isabel is a thoughtful and intelligent woman who gets things right most of the time and is perfectly prepared to admit it when she doesn’t - this makes her a delightful protagonist in this gently philosophical story. The cast of characters who accompany her are all beautifully drawn and believable and, as always in this series, when Isabel finds herself over committed in her mission to help people, she extracts herself with grace and empathy. If you haven’t read any of the previous books it might be good to start with the first (The Sunday Philosophy Club), primarily because they are all hugely enjoyable and secondly, because getting to know the characters will make this book even more enjoyable.
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2.5 stars

I really wanted to enjoy this book, and despite many things, I actually did, 

There is no doubt that Alexander McCall Smith is a gifted writer. The writing, the atmosphere, the charm is all there. However:
- It can barely be called a mystery. "Philosophical mystery" is indeed a better way to describe what to expect.
- The experience is better if you've read at least one other book in the series. The continuing stories of the recurring characters is far more prominent than that of the individual plot ("mystery") of each book. Some context would be good even though each book has some sort of summary/explanation of what all has happened thus far in the series.
- I just couldn't bring myself to care about the characters or their interpersonal relationships. The primary relationship between the aunt and her niece seems to have deteriorated. Character development but not in the direction you'd want. The author seems to dislike his own characters, forcing them to make mistake after mistake. It's very strange and very annoying. 
- It is set in contemporary times but the way the relationship between women is depicted seems anachronistic. 
- There is also a scene in which the characters sit drinking sherry and soda water and make fun of Parsi surnames. I'm not a Parsi, let me clarify. But I took offence as an Indian. Part of the reason why Parsi surnames are the way they are dates back to colonial rule. So this scene rubbed me the wrong way. It's just not cool to make fun of a minority community's identities in 2020? It doesn't help that the suffix in question was misspelled so it makes me wonder whether the author or the publisher did any research at all. Maybe I'm not the target audience for this book. 
- This scene spoiled the experience of the book for me and I couldn't really enjoy the second half of the book which didn't have many redeeming features anyway. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher and author!
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I've read all of the books in the Isabel Dalhousie series and, while I've enjoyed each one, this book is one of the best, in my opinion. Full of McCall's signature witty style, well-developed characters, and musings on life, ethics, and love, I was engaged from the very beginning and finished the book in less than two days. In this latest instalment, Isabel, after a chance encounter with a doctor at a restaurant, is asked to be the executor of his will. Which of his three distant cousins should inherit his estate? In addition, her niece Cat is engaged to the duplicitous Leo, and Isabelle grapples about whether she should voice her concerns about the impending marriage. Also, Eddie's fate is left in her hands, as well as that of a very valuable painting she was gifted.

An excellent addition to this series.
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I always enjoy reading a new book in McCall Smith's Sunday Philosophy Club series. It's rather like catching up with an old - and good - friend.
This latest book is almost as good as I expected it to be. But instead of reading it in a one-off, I was surprised to be able to put it down, and read it in two sessions.A very satisfying read.

With thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a very engaging read. I found myself very intrigued at what I would read next. This is a rare book that I found to be a "can't put down" novel. After reading, I feel like I am friends with the characters,
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I liked this latest addition to the Sunday Philosopher series even more than the several previous volumes.  It was nice to see a few changes to the pattern of the characters and their interactions.  In order to do this, I had to get the book out of the library after reading the netgalley version.  There were so many final sentences of paragraphs and chapters left out, along with haphazard font changes that it nearly drove me crazy.
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“The Geometry of Holding Hands” by beloved author Alexander McCall Smith is book thirteen in the Isabel Dalhousie series.  McCall Smith is “beloved” by many readers—including myself—because he creates such endearing characters, manages to include profound observations about life, and is a prolific writer so you do not have to wait long for the next book.

If you have never read this series, I recommend that you start with book one and meet Isabel in  “The Sunday Philosophy Club”.  You will enjoy her musings on diverse subjects and enjoy exploring her Edinburgh.  If you have read some of the earlier novels in the series then you will enjoy this one.

Isabel is still married to Jamie, they have two little boys, and she is still editor of the “Review of Applied Ethics”, but she manages to notice others around her further afield who need help, and she tries to help their situations.  They are diverse—from helping an old acquaintance of her father’s that she does not know settle his Highland estate, to helping a rather self-centered niece with her deli business and the poor decisions she is probably making under the influence of a new fiancé, to the young man who has been through tough times but is now making something of his life working at the deli, to championing a music student of her husband’s who does not have much natural musical talent but is blessed with loving parents who don’t seem to know this but are incredibly proud of him.  Haven’t we all known young people who loved a pursuit from sports to music, and gave it their whole heart, but just didn’t have much talent for their pursuit?  And been inspired by their devotion to that pursuit anyway.

“The Geometry of Holding Hands” is really at heart about what we do to make the world a better place ( or a place of misery) for the people whose path’s cross our lives be they family or strangers.  To quote Isabel from the book:

“Where were the boundaries of your moral responsibility for others? Draw those too generously, and life became impossible because you simply could not cope with the demands, emotional and practical, placed upon you. Draw them too narrowly, and your world became a cold and constrained place.”

Here are a few other excerpts from this delightful book to give you a sense of just how refreshing the writing and characterization are:

Isbael’s musings upon reading a newspaper:

“Isabel sighed. She did not believe in burying her head in the sand, but there were times when she longed for a paper that portrayed the world in something other than a state of crisis. She wanted the world to be peaceful, and it was not. That was what lay behind talk of peace “the world cannot give.” It cannot; much as we would like it to, it simply cannot. There were too many people—too many people arguing over scarce resources; too many people with differing ideas of what should be done with what we had; too many people who felt they had reasons to dislike others. 

She lowered the paper, unsure whether she wanted to read about the government minister’s embarrassment. He was probably not as inept as his enemies painted him. He would be doing his best, no doubt, and had made miscalculations, or not read something thoroughly enough, or simply forgotten what it was he was meant to do. Anybody could be in his position— even the braying pack of his opponents.”

Isabel’s thoughts about what grace or a lack of grace (her niece Cat) looks like:

“There was a quality we called grace; we all knew that it existed—there were people we described as gracious, but we rarely thought about what was required for somebody to deserve that description. Courtesy came into it, but there was more to it than that. A person might be polite, might treat another with consideration, but still fail to show grace. Was it an attitude, then, of wanting others to feel good about themselves? Was it simple kindness, or was it kindness allied with a concomitant denial of self? To act graciously was to say: this is what you want, and I want you to have it for that reason. It was to do some thing you might not want to do, but to do
it in a way in which others would never know about your reservations.”

I learned some fun Scottish vocabulary when Isabel’s husband Jamie describes who someone is that has just walked into a restaurant in which they are eating dinner:

““She’s a member of the Scottish Parliament. She’s in the Lib Dems, I think. She had a big run-in with the Catholic Church over that guardianship business. She and the Catholic archbishop had a spectacular bust-up on television. A real stushie.” Jamie used the Scots word to describe a brawl; like many Scots words, it was highly suggestive. A stramash in Scots was a chaotic argument or mix-up; a stushie was something that, although possibly verbal, could also involve an exchange of blows.”

Thank you Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book and for allowing me to review it.  ( Publication date 28 July 2020)
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Five Stars!  This is the latest novel in the Isabel Dalhousie series.  Isabel is a moral philosopher who is independently wealthy and edits a philosophy journal.

She is married to Jaime, a musician, and father of her two sons.

The Geometry of Holding Hands is about another moral dilemma that Isabel faces.  More than one dilemma.  A mother of a young musical student asks Isabel to run interference with Jaime.  A stranger asks Isabel to be the executor of his will.  Isabel's niece Cat is about to make a life changing decision that could affect everyone, including Cat's employee Eddie at the deli.

Note: I received a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
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The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Description from NetGalley...
“Isabel finds herself entangled in some tricky familial and financial situations that will require all of her kindness, charm, and philosophical expertise to navigate.
Just when Isabel and Jamie finally seem to have some time to connect and unwind, a wealthy Edinburgh resident reaches out to Isabel with an unusual request—he would like her to become the executor of his large Highland estate. Though Isabel initially demurs, he presses on. He has only a short time to live, and, without any direct heirs, is struggling to determine which of his three cousins would be the best caretaker. Should it go to the bohemian artist, the savvy city property developer, or the quiet, unassuming bachelor?  
As if this weren’t enough to keep Isabel occupied, she’s also spending more time helping her niece Cat at the deli. Cat, perennially unlucky in love, seems to have finally found her match in the leonine Leo. But Isabel is beginning to suspect that Leo might be interested in more than Cat’s charms, namely her access to the family trust. Isabel will need to rely upon remarkable reserves of intelligence and compassion in order to give all parties exactly what they want and deserve—no more, and no less.”
Thank you to @NetGalley @knopfca @doubledayca @pantheonbooks for the digital ARC in return for my honest review.
My thoughts...
This book is part of AMS’ Isabel Dalhousie series. Isabel is a philosopher, who finds moral ambiguities very challenging. In this book, one of the discussions were on being well-off, and whether she deserved to eat at expensive and fancy restaurants. There were a few other thoughts that required contemplation. As much as I have enjoyed this series throughout the years, this one did not seem to need the use of Isabel’s intelligence to solve the mystery. Like all AMS books, it ends with a sigh for me. A good sigh, due to so many things to contemplate during and after you have read it. It’s not a fast-paced read. It exercised the mind.
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‘The happiness of others was often inexplicable. People got by; people sought different things; they felt their way through the accidental circumstances of their lives. They snatched at small scraps of happiness which, sometimes to the surprise of others, were enough.’

Alexander McCall Smith could write on a serviette and I would pay to read it - it’s pure and it’s simple. I have read some but not all the 'Isabel Dalhousie' series (this volume is number 13) but luckily they can be read as a standalone. These are quick and easy reads that satiate my wish for Alexander’s writing - a quiet, reflective escape to consider life with a cup of tea in hand. For you see, Isabel being the philosopher she is, often finds herself contemplating various everyday ethical issues that, in turn, encourage the reader to do likewise.   

“Things happen,” he said. “We don’t like all of them.” Isabel reflected that sometimes she liked very little of what was happening in the world. “But you have to accept things,” Jamie insisted. He remembered Isabel saying something about the Stoics and acceptance. “Didn’t the Stoics say, ‘Accept what you can’t influence or change’?”

On this occasion her life is increasingly getting busier with two small children and still editor of an Ethics Journal. There are always a couple of issues in each book and it is Isabel’s rumination on each of them that I find so appealing. This is why I love Alexander’s writing - he can take something so simple and ponder the case from all sides - he gives voice, through Isabel’s musings, of wider world issues. Add to this a delightful few days in the celebrated city of Edinburgh and there is much to endear these books. 

‘Perhaps it was only a prolonged education, coupled with the security it brought, that encouraged nuanced thinking. Isabel sometimes wondered whether liberalism was most enthusiastically practised by those who could afford it: you could be generous to others if the likelihood of your ever wanting for anything was remote; you could be kind to asylum seekers if they would never take up resources you would need yourself; you could be tolerant of crime if there was not much of it in your neighbourhood. And so on...’

Much like the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series which I simply adore, The Geometry of Holding Hands has some quirky characters, everyday angst and deliberations to reflect upon over a cup of tea. It’s whimsical and fun, light and easy. Not a bad thing in these uncertain days to lose yourself for a short while.

‘Three figures, in a typical Celtic circle, held hands with one another, arms in a complicated pattern of intermingling. “I love that,” he said. “I think it says everything there is to be said about helping one another and loving one another and being part of . . . well, I suppose being part of something bigger than oneself.” Isabel looked. “The geometry of holding hands,” she said.’


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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Another wonderful Isabel Dalhousie story.Inlove visiting with her her husband the cast of characters,It really was delightful to sit back return to Edinburgh and rejoin this family.#netgalley#knopfdoubleday
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Alexander McCall Smith has Isabel Dalhousie  explore The Geometry of Holding Hands.  Isabel is asked to be the executor of a wealthy man with a highland estate who is dying and also sit on the family  trust when her niece  Cat. gets engaged and decides to sell her deli to finance the dream of her fiance.  Moral ambiguities trouble Isabel the moral philosopher.  Charmingly told with much knowledge of human foibles.
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I'm sure this is a great book - I love everything by Alexander McCall Smith - so I've given it the benefit of the doubt with four stars. But I couldn't read it because the text was horribly garbled. The word 'PROOF' appeared at regular intervals throughout the text, paragraphs were split, ends of sentences were missing... So disappointed that I couldn't read it.
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The Geometry of Holding Hands is the latest charming book in the Philosophy Club/Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Isabelle, her husband Jamie and young son – Magnus create a charming family and possess some natural wit. It’s also as intelligent and philosophical as ever as they contemplate the poet Wilfred Owen. There is also some contemplation over money matters and their employment too, with Jamie earning a bit from being a musician/music teacher and Isabelle being the editor of the Review, dealing with many authors. All the sudden angst and wondering if they really deserve the nice things in life, begins with them going to a fancy restaurant – Casa Trimalchio. Alexander McCall Smith captures this part of the “human condition” very well and so naturally for his characters. Even though they clearly have money to do the nice treats in life, these characters are always ones that are relatable, whatever your standing in society is and are easy to feel compassion for. This is testament to the writing and thought that goes into it.

There is plenty for readers to contemplate in this book and ponder over, such as the army and also letting people live however they see fit. It’s all done in a philosophical, gentle way.

Casa Trimalchio is an Italian restaurant in Edinburgh where everyone with a “name” for themselves, seems to go and you never know who you may be sitting in the company of, including people caught up or have caused quite a scandal.

Balancing home-life, the job at the Review and Cat’s needs becomes more complex for Isabelle. When Cat and Leo’s lives become even more entangled it strains things even more complicated and then there’s Eddie in the equation too. Isabelle begins to wonder about where boundaries should be drawn without upsetting anyone.

Isabelle and Cat both have a trust that has helped Cat set up her delicatessen, whom she helps out at times of necessity, whether she really has the time to or not. I like that level of kindness that is displayed within her character. It’s a lovely sounding deli with its charcuterie etc, where she encounters Iain Melrose whom she saw in the restaurant. He’s impressed by things she did and said in the restaurant as she shown some integrity and morals and also a sign of a certain courage and strength of character. Isabelle is a character that is so well-developed in a positive, caring way which is enjoyable to read. Iain Melrose is an interesting character to explore and lived quite a life and it is explained why he is looking for someone who seems right to become executer of the estate. The estate he describes has quite a history to it. McCall Smith ensures that readers really can understand the nature of an event or circumstance and the characters presented within them in good detail, without over-doing it. He treads this fine-line well and keeps a relaxed pace. The fact that characters don’t have a continuous strict linear line from one philosophical thought or event to the next keeps the flow feeling natural and smooth. There is also a strong thread of plotline maintained throughout it.
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Thanks to NetGalley. This is my favorite series written by Alexander McCall Smith. I’ve been reading these since the beginning. and I think it is the best way to get a feel for the characters and the ambience of these stories. I enjoy Isabel Dalhousie and most of her family and friends. Even though we did not get to see Brother Fox, at least there was a mention of him. I love the way Isabel’s mind works with “a meandering, deltoid consciousness.” It was a comforting read, an escape from the outside world. I might go back and read some of the earlier books.
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Alexander McCall Smith never fails to deliver thoughtful and highly enjoyable stories. This one was no exception.
I love this series and this was an excellent addition.
The plot is entertaining and gripping, character development and storytelling are excellent.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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