Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith

Um, this post was scheduled to go up ten days ago.  But, apparently, it did not.  Boo to you, Blogger.

This is a new author and new series for me--I hadn't heard of either before.  On a scale from 1 to 10, I'd give it a 6.5/7.  I enjoyed the story, but it wasn't a hard-to-put-down story.  However, when I did make time to read it, the chapters flew by quickly, and I liked that.  Precious Ramotswe opens a private detective agency in her village in Botswana.  She has a series of cases and investigations that allow the reader to glimpse into the African culture, which is relatively unfamiliar to me.  I'll confess, more than once during Smith's descriptions of the Kalahari, the opening theme song from "The Lion King" played in my head.

One thing I did like about Romatswe was her internal struggle about changes in culture.  She often reflects how things are best done in the traditional Botswana way.  She doesn't like the gradual Americanizing she sees creeping into her homeland.  However, she's a paradox to her own thinking.  More than once she encounters people who find it peculiar that a woman is taking on a traditionally male occupation.  When this happens she asks if they have ever heard of Agatha Christie.  For her to break this mold is acceptable in her eyes, but she frowns upon similar changes around her.  Maybe I'm reading way too into this, but Precious Ramotswe is a fat African woman who travels in a small white van as she conducts her investigations.  I remember in 7th grade English we watched "Star Wars" and my teacher, Mr. Schroeder, explained that the Storm Troopers' uniforms were white with black showing from beneath, symbolizing their dark motives beneath a cloak of righteous changes.  So, in my mind, some analytic part of my seventh-grade subconscious latched onto this fat African lady in a small white van imagery, in the way it reflects her wanting to hang onto the old traditional ways inside, but ways on the outside are adapting to western culture whether you want it or not.  Maybe that was a gross over-generalization of a culture to which I am grossly ignorant.  I'm not trying to say anything about African culture, just an insight into Romatswe's struggle with culture adjustments.

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