Sunday, April 01, 2007

Blue Shoes and Happiness

Alexander McCall Smith has a knack for interesting titles. I read The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency about three years back and became an instant fan of the charming series about 'traditionally built' Mma Ramotswe and her adventures in Botswana. Back to the titles -- there are now 8 books in the series, with names like Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, The Full Cupboard of Life, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, and of course, Blue Shoes and Happiness, book 7 in the series. I've found that the titles don't represent the theme of the book nor are they in particular reference to Mma's Ramotswe's pending case. Relevant, yes, but most are derived from a comment or a minor instance in the book. But aren't they catchy?? Certainly better than Tales of a Botswana Detective: The Missing American, or The Doctor's Bad Twin.
If you haven't read No. 1 Ladies, I highly recommend it. In fact, I highly recommend the first four of the series. The writing is uncomplicated and straight forward, mostly from Mma R's point of view (though there is considerable head-hopping, it's done well), and though the stories revolve around her detective agency, there's no high drama, action or suspense. They are gentle stories, interesting reflections about life on the edge of the Kalahari Desert whose main character reflects on her cases by sitting under acacia trees and staring at the sky, who relies on the wisdom of her late father, Obed Ramotswe, and traditional Botswana manners and rules of ettiquette to navigate the sticky situations brought to her. And despite how boring I'm probably making this sound, it quite simply isn't. The characters are so well drawn, such a delight to meet and spend time with... You won't lose sleep trying keep up with the pace of writing, but you'll be smiling from beginning to end.
I've recommended only the first four books in the series because they are the best, or course. Like any new relationship, getting to know the characters and how they affect one another is the most interesting part. Books 5, 6 &7, (I haven't read #8 yet) are a bit like visiting an old aunt: You feel obligated to keep in touch, know you're going to get a cup of tea and piece of cake, but nothing new is really happening. Still, you're glad you visited because it was familiar and comfortable.

I've got JR Ward's Dark Lover on the table beside me and I'm trying desperately NOT to pick it up so I can spend time with my kids today, maybe get some writing done tonight and go to bed at a decent hour. Once that book gets cracked, life will be put on hold 'til it's finished.

10 comments:

Christine said...

I have my RWA meeting today, so I'm going to swing by Chapters to see if I can find the first book int JR Ward series. I have book two and three and they are calling to me.

These detective books sound good. I'll have to put at least the first one on my wish list.

Amy Ruttan said...

Because of you I picked up the Birth House at Costco and was unable to put it down. I read it in one sitting of about 4 hours.

It was amazing.

You're bad for my TBR pile. :)

Thomma Lyn said...

The Alexander McCall Smith books sound good, and what neat-o titles! Gonna have to add them to my ever-expanding "To Read" list... one of these days our floor is gonna fall in from all these dang books. ;-) (and yup, that couple's floor really did fall in, LOLOL!)

Vicky said...

I have walked by The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency a hundred times... I've picked it up, read it, and put it back on the shelf just as many. I might just have to go to Chapters and pick it up the first couple after all. ;) And by the way ... just like visitign an aunt - obligated to keep in touch... LMAO! You're so funny! Have a great weekend! :)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I'd say you describe the series quite well, Wylie. I've got Kalahari Typing School and Tears of the Giraffe sitting here, waiting for me.

Wylie Kinson said...

Amy -- I've heard good stuff about The Birth House, so I'm glad it's as good as the hype. It'll be a while before I get to it!

Wylie Kinson said...

TL & Vicky -- you won't be sorry. As I said, they're very gentle, easy to read and charming books. As an added bonus, you'll pick up some interesting tidbits of life in Africa. Personally, I had to go find Botswana on the map because sadly, had NO idea where in Africa it was!
Doh!

Wylie Kinson said...

Hi Susan,
I'm glad you liked my description because I found it hard to really capture the essence and Mma Ramotswe is a lady I'd love to know -- traditional build and all!!

Leah Braemel said...

Akkk! More books to add to my 'look for' list. I think I'll have to pull out the library card for these, you're getting expensive!

Kristy said...

I've read the first three. I have 4 - 6 and hope to get to this summer. I think they are a great summer read. Great blog. I'm adding you to my blog roll.

http://kristy-justanotherblogger.blogspot.com/