With two small boys to raise, a mountain of articles to edit for the Review of Applied Ethics, and the ever-increasing demands of her niece, Cat, who always seems to need a helping hand at the deli, Isabel barely has any time for herself. Her husband, Jamie, suggests acquiring extra help, and she reluctantly agrees. In no time at all, Isabel and Jamie have a new au pair, and Isabel has an intelligent assistant editor to share her workload. Both women, though, have romantic entanglements that threaten to interfere with their work, and Isabel must decide how best to navigate this tricky domestic situation. Can an employer ever inject herself into her employees’ affairs?
Meanwhile, Isabel makes the acquaintance of Patricia, the mother of Charlie’s friend Basil. Though Isabel finds Patricia rather pushy, she tries to be civil and supportive, especially given that Patricia is raising her son on her own, without the help of his father, a well-known Edinburgh organist, also named Basil. But when Isabel sees Patricia in the company of an unscrupulous man, she begins to rethink her assumptions. Isabel must once again call on her kindness and keen intelligence to determine the right course of action, at home, at work, and in the schoolyard.
About the Author
Date of Birth:August 24, 1948
Place of Birth:Zimbabwe
Read an Excerpt
‘Gossip?’ asked Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher, wife, mother, and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. With the first three of these roles she was unreservedly happy; the editorship, though, she would at times gladly have passed on to somebody else—at particularly stressful moments to anybody at all—except that there was nobody to take it on, or at least no one who would do it unpaid, without complaint, and with the enthusiasm and wit that Isabel devoted to it. All of which seemed to suggest that Isabel was the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics for life.
Excerpted from "The Quiet Side of Passion"
Copyright © 2018 Alexander McCall Smith.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
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Reading Group Guide
In the latest installment of Isabelle Dalhousie’s series, we find that gossip and assumptions can be very dangerous things, even to the most moral and ethical of us all.
1. Much is made of Isabelle’s morals and ethics, although no one is perfect. How does Isabelle occasionally stray from the straight, narrow road she tries to follow?
2. Describe Isabelle’s and Jamie’s relationship. What are their differences? What do you think makes their marriage work?
3. Isabelle has very definite views on her niece Cat’s personality. How would you describe Cat?
4. Describe the character of Eddie and his quirks. Why does he refer to Cat as “she”?
5. Gossip—from Jamie’s about Patricia, to Eddie’s about Cat’s new boyfriend—is a main theme of the book, but so are inaccurate assumptions. How do these two things differ? How are they related?
6. What do you think of Professor Lettuce’s letter to Isabelle (pp. 48-51)? How would you have responded?
7. Isabelle is aware that procrastination is among her greatest shortcomings. What are some weaknesses you recognize that you share with the characters in the book?
8. Jamie very reasonably suggests that Isabelle get some help for the magazine and the house cleaning, and declares she should only work at the deli once a week. Isabelle agrees and responds with alacrity. Within days she has an assistant and an au pair. How does Grace respond to these changes? Should she get to voice an opinion at all?
9. Describe the character of Leo. What do you think of him? Do you think is Leo good for Cat?
10. Isabelle’s introduction to Patricia doesn’t begin on a very high note, with Jamie telling her gossip about Basil Phelps (senior). Do you think Jamie’s gossip about Patricia affected Isabelle’s opinion of the woman before meeting her?
11. Isabelle finds Patricia a bit pushy and decides she must be lonely. But soon Patricia seems to be using Grace and Isabelle as free babysitters, rather than parents on a playdate. How do Isabelle and Grace react?
12. Isabelle has some suspicions about Patricia’s objectives. When Jamie and Isabelle see Patricia and a mystery man at the Quay, how does Isabelle react?
13. How do Isabelle’s actions upon leaving the restaurant get her in trouble? How does Patricia approach the situation when she sees Isabel again?
14. Antonia, the young and beautiful Italian au pair, is eager to please. How does her presence in the house create problems for Isabel?
15. Antonia disappears with Eddie to Skye for a few days. Eddie is caught up in her charms. How do Cat and Isabel react to the situation? Do you think they reacted handled it appropriately? What about Eddie?
16. Claire is smart and well-equipped to deal with the work for the Review of Applied Ethics, which Isabel desperately needs. What gets in the way of their working relationship?
17. Isabel approaches Basil Phelps (senior) after a concert, in a pub, about young Basil’s parentage. How would you describe this exchange? And his letter to her later? Do you think Isabel was right to approach him in the first place?
18. What does Leo do in response to Isabel telling him her problems?
19. Although everything that Isabel was concerned about was resolved, in what ways is she unhappy with how the outcomes were reached?
20. What does the title, The Quiet Side of Passion, refer to?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cat’s life, then, was not an example of the examined life of which philosophers have long written; Isabel’s life, by contrast, was a life lived under a moral microscope.” The Quiet Side of Passion is the twelfth book in the Isabel Dalhousie series by popular British author, Alexander McCall Smith. Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher, wife to Jamie, mother to Charlie and Magnus, helpful aunt to the ever-demanding (and often selfish) Cat, and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, is feeling the pressure. The demands on her time are many, and with each additional one, she is feeling the strain on her inner resources. At the University in response to a rather arrogant summons from her long-time nemesis, Professor Lettuce, an accidental meeting presents a possible solution to one aspect of her busy life. Jamie has two suggestions for further improvements, and before long, Isabel is feeling the benefits of her lightened load. But these initially-hard-working young women (Antonia the au pair, Claire the assistant) soon prove to complicate matters even more, actually causing more problems than they solve. On top of all this, some gossip that Jamie shares with her, together with a chance sighting in a restaurant, see Isabel mounting an unwise pursuit in a dangerous area. As usual, Jamie knows he cannot deter her, knowing her so well: “’Obstinate, interventionist, nosy, yet…yet one who does the right thing – where lesser mortals…’ and here he pointed at himself, ‘where lesser mortals fear to tread’”; but Isabel is troubled by how the matter is eventually resolved. Daily events set off Isabel’s musings, presenting ever more potential topics for future issues of the Review: robots and mercy, loyalty and betrayal, (raw milk) cheese and freedom, the morals of music. Topics of discussion include snobbishness, gossip, Atilla the Hun, tattoos, and hunting. And Professor Lettuce’s capacity for effrontery never ceases to astonish. As always, a delightful read.
I really liked this one in the series. Highly recommend it
He never disappoints.