Jessica Mann

Effortlessly Ethical

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate


Little, Brown 288pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

I interviewed Alexander McCall Smith for the Literary Review last year, when his books about the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency had suddenly become worldwide bestsellers, and The Sunday Philosophy Club was just out. He said he was trying to make up his mind about its sequel: was its heroine to have an affair with the delightful Jamie? Isabel Dalhousie is an Edinburgh worthy, in some ways a chilly northern equivalent of the delightfully extrovert Botswanan Mma Ramotswe. Both are middle-aged women who take a more than neighbourly interest in other people’s business. In Friends, Lovers, Chocolate, Isabel develops more than friendly emotions towards a much younger man. Jamie is the ex-boyfriend of her niece Cat, Isabel is an unmarried philosopher who has been single since her heart was broken by an unfaithful Irish philanderer. She has limited experience of the world, living on inherited money in her childhood home, looked after by a fierce but faithful housekeeper, and her knowledge of human emotions, her own or anyone else’s, is more theoretical than practical; but she is immensely erudite, relentlessly analytical, and a decisive editor of The Review of Applied Ethics. Reviewing a book called In Praise of Sin or rejecting an article on ‘The Rightness of Vice’ is easier than understanding the customers she meets in Cat’s delicatessen.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,