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Posts Tagged ‘Tears of the Giraffe’

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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