The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith

The Right Attitude to Rain is the third in the series of Isabel Dalhousie novels, set in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders. It’s a pleasure to read but difficult to write about. Not a lot happens and reading it is like being inside Isabel’s head. She takes a great interest in the affairs of others and likes watching people. Some people might call this nosiness.

Some things do happen – Isabel is buying a flat for her housekeeper, Grace. Cat, her niece has a new boyfriend, Patrick, but Isabel doubts his possessive mother is happy about that. Meanwhile she is wondering if her love for Jamie, 14 years her junior and Cat’s ex-boyfriend, could ever be reciprocated:

There is no point in my loving this young man, she told herself, because it can never go anywhere. And yet did it matter if love was not reciprocated? Was it not possible to love somebody hopelessly, from a distance even, and for that love to be satisfying, even if never reciprocated, even if the object of one’s affections never even knew? (page 33)

A large part of the book is taken up with their developing relationship and the tensions it arouses. Then there is the American couple Isabel watches in the Scottish Gallery who turn out to be friends of her cousin Mimi, who is staying with her for a few weeks. This gives Isabel the opportunity to meet the couple and become involved in their lives. Mimi also has a revelation concerning Isabel’s ‘sainted American mother’, which causes Isabel some distress.

It’s a study of relationships, communication and misunderstandings as Isabel mulls over philosophical and moral dilemmas, and conducts internal debates instead of simply making a decision and acting upon it. Grace sums her up admirably:

Isabel’s life was a good one; she was a kind woman, and she felt for people, which was more than one could say about a lot of people in her position, Grace thought. But there were certainly areas of Isabel’s life where what was required was a little less thought and a bit more action. (page 125)

What about the rain? Well, it all depends on your attitude – any hint of warm weather and you’re optimistic about being outside:

… but resigned to being driven back in by rain, or mist, or other features of the Scottish summer. (page 10)

I’d add that it’s not only Scotland where it rains …

3 thoughts on “The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith

  1. I wish I could connect with McCall Smith because so many people whose tastes I admire obviously love him but I really can’t make the link. It must be something deficient in me. However, I’m so glad you enjoyed this.


    • Study Window, I don’t think it’s a deficiency, it just shows we can’t all like the same books. I haven’t read any of his other series – they never appealed, even after watching the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on TV – a bit twee I thought.


  2. I love the thoughtfulness of this series, Isabel is so careful in her dealings with people and events – I do so sympathise with the more thought than action approach, though in my case it’s mostly dithering!


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