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Posts Tagged ‘Alexander McCall Smith’

This week I kept it light and stayed in Botswana.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

 

Book 12 – In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, by Alexander McCall Smith. This book is a little more serious than the last.  In this book, Mma Ramotswe has an accident which changes a future for the better, and is confronted with the pain of her past.  Meanwhile, a teapot leads to a showdown and Mma Makutsi makes a small change in her life, which invites a big question…

This book draws earlier storylines into focus; for example Mma Ramotswe’s ill-fated marriage is revisited, we find out about some of the characters Mma Makutsi was at college with, and we learn a little of life outside the garage for Charlie, the eldest of the apprentices.

The reason this one seems more serious than the previous book is because bigger themes are explored – abuse, miscarriages of justice, betrayal and acceptance.  We see once more Mma  Ramotswe’s open-hearted and forgiving nature, but we also see how she too has been cowed in the past, and how she has never been free of the feelings that her abusive marriage raised.

Overall, this was less comfortable to read, but in seeing Mma Ramotswe get her power back it was very fulfilling. Closing the chapter of her marriage felt as though Mma Ramotswe was finally free – and for Mma Makutsi to find her own freedom in the same book was a satisfying conclusion.

I think it’s time to leave Botswana for a while now, though, and head on somewhere else – it feel like the characters are all in a good place, and I’m happy to keep them there.Dog and book (2)

Here is my dog with the book; he’s claimed it now!

I’m looking forward to discovering a new author, and the world they create.  Who knows where I’ll land next!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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This week’s slightly blurry book (kept company by one of my beloved dragons – well, it is St David’s Day!) involved a trip back to Botswana.

The full cupboard of life

Book 11 – The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith.

This is another book set in the world of Precious Ramotswe and her No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.  In this story, Mma Ramotswe is asked to investigate the four suitors of a wealthy woman; Mr J. L. B. Matekoni is pressured into a dangerous situation and Mma Ramotswe has to help him out – and she finally loses patience with their lack of progress towards marriage.

As with all Mma Ramotswe’s stories, this book brims with love of Botswana, albeit tinged with sadness at the progress of change.  I saw a review that called these ‘subtle, gentle stories’ and that is exactly what they are – Mma Ramotswe is a good woman, wishing to see the best in others and protect what she can of the world she knows and loves.  This particular book doesn’t have much going on – even the investigation into the four suitors ceases after our detective meets two – but it’s a little like curling up on a squishy chair, in a sunny garden, on a warm day. Reading it was somehow restful.

There are different books for different moods, and that is one of the joys of reading – you can find something to suit you, whatever you want.  I started and stopped two darker and more complex books before I picked this one up because it’s not long since I read the first four.  However, I didn’t have a lot of time this week, and I needed something light and pleasant, and this was the perfect choice.

I appreciate this isn’t really a review but I already said all I needed to say about these books.  They are just a pleasure, for me.  A bit of escapism on a week of editing and personal targets is very much welcome, and that’s exactly what I got.

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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This week, I’ve read four – yes, 4! – new books, all written by Alexander McCall Smith.

Book 3 – The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.  This book introduces us to Precious Ramotswe, owner of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the only detective agency in Botswana.  The story follows her as she sets up her business, employs Mma Makutsi as her secretary, and undertakes a variety of investigations – from freedom-seeking daughters to the possible death of a child at the hands of a witch doctor.

Book 4 – Tears of the Giraffe continues the story of Mma Ramotswe.  Newly engaged and the target of a campaign she knows nothing about, she is approached by an American lady to discover the fate of her son who disappeared a decade ago.  Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe find her own family unexpectedly growing…

Book 5 – Morality for Beautiful Girls sees the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency in financial trouble despite some interesting cases, including the quest to uncover a poisoning plot and the boy who smells of lion…  As she struggles with her business worries, Mma Ramotswe’s fiance Mr J. L. B. Matekoni struggles with depression and Mma Makutsi finds her feet as both Assistant Detective and Assistant Garage Manager.

Book 6 – The Kalahari Typing School for Men sees Mr J.L.B. Matekoni returns to work following his illness, Mma Makutsi sets up her own business and Mma Ramotswe has to face the challenge of a new Detective on the block – and a moral quandary when a case seeps into her personal life.

As they are four of a series I have decided to do a joint review, which I hope will make sense as you read it!

I initially started with book 2 of the series, and could not get into it at all, but having bought 6 or 7 at a book sale I was determined to persevere, so I sought out book 1.  I really feel this series has to be read from the start, because so much builds on previous knowledge.

(Incidentally, there are some continuity issues – such as Mma Makutsi is a widow in book 1 but this is never being referred to again, and subsequently she is identified as a single lady who has never found love. Equally, some of the timescales do not fit with earlier information provided, which I suspect I only noticed having read them in a block.   However, they didn’t really bother me much.)

The style of writing is unusual, and I do smile that after 4 books Mma Ramotswe still refers to her fiance as Mr J. L. B. Matekoni – I have no idea of his first name, and neither apparently does anyone else!

It took me a while to get into the flow but once I did, I devoured these books.

They engage the reader in Botswana so the country itself is a character, its dust and sky and cattle elements of its personality.   The country is spoken of with such love, respect and pride that I went and looked up holidays there after the third book!

The characters are engaging and although some elements don’t lead where you expect – such as Mr J. L. B Matekoni’s depression – they create an opportunity for another character to change, leading them to develop and grow in the narrative.

These books evoke a different world, and even within the storyline it’s a world that is steadily disappearing.  There are questions of morality, respect, attitude and culture that are not universal, and make the reader think about their own responses to the situations.

However, they are not morality tales, and the overriding feeling when experiencing the world through Mma Ramotswe’s eyes is that everyone is human, no-one is perfect, and mistakes can be forgiven.  That’s not a bad underlying message in my eyes.

I add a little bonus star for the gender dynamics displayed; the sense that women are starting to challenge the male dominated power in a land still identifying with traditional familial roles.  The gentle way stereotypes are set up and squashed in the book – such as the disabled girl who wants to be a mechanic, and the detective who suggests only men are able to investigate,only for him to fail in his job – are not uncomfortable or excessive, but show the people of a young country changing as the world around them changes.

I would recommend these books; for as long as I am reading them, I am transported out of the rainy, grey January of the UK and into the open skies and dry air of Africa.  I like Mma Ramotswe and her ‘traditionally built’ body, her appreciation of new dresses and bargain shopping, her kind and generous nature and the evident hope that she can do some good in the world, or at least ease the pain of those who have been wronged.  I enjoy her showing me the world she knows, and my favourite parts of the books by far are her viewpoint sections.

Plus, if nothing else, I’ve learnt a little of Botswana’s history along the way!

Happy reading

EJ

🙂

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