Saturday, January 21, 2006

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Just finished reading Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I must admit, I was drawn in first by the title, then by the blurb at the back giving an outline of the book.
The proprietor of the eponymous detective agency is our heroine, Precious Ramotswe. With a name like that, are you surprised she runs the only detective agency in Botswana? Maybe because English fiction set in Africa seems to be rare, I plunged right into this one.
Overall, the book is a series of cases that Precious solves with her combination of intuition, patience and charm. She has an honesty and integrity that comes across clearly, without her ever seeming holier-than-thou or judgmental. The other characters, like her friend Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and her secretary Ms. Makutsi, are also strong presences in the book though they don’t take up much of the plot. (However, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni features strongly in the ending.)
There is a strong thread of nationalism running through the book; in fact it almost seems like a sub-theme. The descriptions of the land and the country are simple and elegant. Also present is a continual reference to the bad behavior of men, in a gentle, reproachful manner; however, at times you can almost predict that there is going to be a comment on the unreliability of men in general. Also, I found the recollections of her father and the stories of mines a tad unnecessary, in that they took away from the pace of the narrative as a whole. But still, you can well imagine our Miss Ramotswe in her house at Zebra Drive, sipping a cup of bush tea and listening to Radio Botswana every morning. It is images like these that stay with you; vignettes of authentic African life, which make the book such an easy, pleasant read. The author’s writing style is lovely, and is so simple as to make anyone think that they could write like this.
Other books in the Miss Ramotswe series are the intriguingly titled “The Kalahari Typing School for Men” and “Morality for Beautiful Girls” among others. I would definitely like to read more of Precious Ramotswe and her tiny white van. A good read if you’re in the mood for something light but satisfying.
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1 comment:

Rupa said...

I have put it for hold in the library - just culdn't resist after I read your review :) cup of bush tea indeed !!

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