Book Review--The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

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Through no fault of its own, this book brought me once again to the realization that as I grow older, I seem to have less time or willingness to bear with trifles.

The story concerns the exploits and background of one Mma Precious Ramotswe, a resident of Botswana and founder of the first ladies detective agency in the country. The novel consists of a string of cases, the most serious of which is a rather confusing tangle of an 11 year old boy whose fate I will not detail, but which ultimately remains obscurely or entirely unexplained.

In the course of this novel one gets delightful evocations of life in southern Africa. One comes to meet some fairly interesting people, and one is given an inside perspective on life in Africa today. Because of a kind of ingrained romanticism that stems from never having visited any part of Africa, I am always surprised to read about modern cities, expecting rather more traditional villages and communities. So it is good to upset those fixed notions from time to time.

But the book is ultimately a trifle, a puff-pastry, a delectable delight that once consumed leaves one unsatisfied. One can move on to other such works or resume more substantial reading. For one, I may consume one other such trifle, but then it's back to Davies, Waugh, and Tolstoy. (Not to mention Benoit Mandelbrot.)


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In many ways, I completely agree with you on this, Steven. I have just finished reading all four of the "#1" books that are currently out in paperback. And I agree that they are a sweet trifle.

But, you know, I find myself in need of those trifles at times, because I tread too closely to the line of sadness or darkness. Generally, when I feel myself getting too close to the line, I retreat to children's literature--to recapture, perhaps, the innocence of another time. To put cynicism on the back burner for the moment.

Of course, my spiritual reading helps as well. But some nights, a dose of Precious Ramotswe is as refreshing as a glass of cold white wine. And as soothing to the heart!

Dear Mama T,

You make a very good point, one with which I must agree. Perhaps it's just the invigorating presence of Autumn that adjusts my attitude differently. I'm always vacillating between such trifles and more serious reading. And so, Mma Ramotswe is a nice person to visit from time to time. Something to keep in mind when my brain gets clogged with "literature" again. Thanks.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 15, 2004 7:01 AM.

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