Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Series Review - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

It’s summertime . . . summertime in Central Texas. And that means hot and humid. It also means, for me, a slower pace, which translates, among other things, into reading. 
Exactly two months ago I purchased a book, recommended by my friend, Cindy, from Juneau, titled The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith. It was a simple book and immediately sucked me into it’s world, the African world of *Botswana, and the world of its main character **Mma Precious Ramotswe. 
I always hate it when a good book ends, so you can imagine how happy I was to find that this book was only the first in a series. Off I went, to to buy the second one. But when I discovered that there are currently 13 books in the series, I decided to save some money and use our local library. I’ve been checking the books out, two at a time, and have just finished reading the tenth one: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built.
What a wonderful summertime series! These books are unlike any I’ve ever read. They are completely character-driven, and exude gentleness, peace, kindness, grace and the kind of humor that puts a smile on your face, as opposed to the kind of humor that makes you laugh out loud. These books are also a window into the rich culture of Botswana, where the traditional lifestyle and modern lifestyle are continuously struggling with each other.
From every one of the books I found gems, in the form of ideas and words from Mma Ramotswe, who proudly describes herself as “traditionally built” (as opposed to the more modern, slender, stylish women of Africa). Maybe because I am “traditionally built” myself, I felt a kinship with and a love for Precious Ramotswe. Here’s one of my favorite quotations, from Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, which I just finished:
Mma Ramotswe sensed that Mma Tafa was glad of the company. She knew that it was not always easy for women in such places, where the easy companionship of the village had been replaced by the comparative anonymity of the town. Such a woman might spend much of the day without any contact with other women - an unnatural state of affairs, in Mma Ramotswe’s view. We are born to talk to other people, she thought; we are born to be sociable and to sit together with others in the shade of an acacia tree and talk about things that happened the day before. We were not born to sit in kitchens by ourselves, with nobody to chat to. (Page 127)
Cindy (from Juneau), thank you for your suggestion that kicked off my summer reading. Only three more books in the series, and then I’ll be looking for something new, but my summer will have been a richer experience, having read through the entire No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series.

* Botswana is located in Southern Africa, just north of South Africa. It is very sparsely populated, and is an arid land, 70% of which is covered by the Kalahari Desert. Botswana became independent from Britain in 1966, and is a democratic republic. Its capital is Gaborone, where this series takes place.
** According to Alexander McCall Smith’s website Q&As, “Mma and Rra are the formal terms of greeting and respect in Botswana. Mma is pronounced ‘Ma’, with a gentle m sound and a shortish a. Rra is exactly as it is spelt, with a rolling R.”


Anonymous said...

I started this great series with audiobooks from the library. I enjoyed listening to them and that is probably the only reason I was able to pronouce all the names and titles when I started reading them. I eagerly await each new book. Love, Kathy

McCallon said...

Dear Linda,
I'm delighted you are enjoying Dr. Smith's books. Be sure to see the video of the first one; it was presented on PBS, here. Perhaps the library will have a copy.
Betsy remains in my prayers to the true and living God.
Cindy Mc