Monday, April 30, 2007

Alexander McCall Smith

He is one of the most wonderful, funny, compassionate writers that I've had the pleasure to read. His tone is gentle & ironic, full of good humor, directed towards his spirited, intelligent heroines and their unique take on life. These novels take you into a warm and inviting world wherever they are set, whether in Scotland or Botswana, the characters embrace you and become a part of your life - more real to you than some flesh and blood people you know.

One set of his books is set in Botswana - 'The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' - it is a series of seven books now 8 and the protagonist is Precious Ramotswe, the cheerful 'traditionally built' African woman who is intelligent, perceptive with her flaws but oh so lovable, she sets herself up as her country's first female detective. She has an innate, self-possessed wisdom that, combined with an understanding of human nature, invariably penetrates into the heart of a puzzle. Precious Ramotswe is a remarkable creation, and and all the books following it deserve the praise and adulation that he has received from all his readers who love them as if they were real.

Mr Smith brings to canvas an Africa that is remarkably different to the ones painted in our minds - images of famine and privation, Mr McCall Smith' Africa is rich in tones, warm with beautiful people who welcome you into their hearts and hearth. The reader will be absorbed into Mma Ramotswe love for Africa and feel it pulsating within him/her, her wisdom her humor leap out of the pages as she uses her life experiences to bring light on others' problems. Her tiny white van, her love of bush tea, the apprentices and their vain preening, Mma Katusi and her 97% from the Botswana Secretarial College, are images that invariably bring a smile on the face. This series is as 'precious' as the name of its main protagonist.

And the other series I love by him are the 'Isabel Dalhousie Novels' in which the protagonist, Isabel Dalhousie, is the charming intrepid well-intentioned editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. She does not actively seek out trouble, but her inability to ignore those in need invariable draws her into peculiar situations. She finds herself constantly analyzing other people's problems, she is an altogether too morally sound woman, who sometimes becomes not a little annoying with her insistence on doing the right thing which leads her to get involved in affairs that have not much to do with her except she think 'moral proximity' makes it incumbent on us to do the right thing. We go through with her through a journey of what is right and what is wrong, her moral dilemmas when she falls for the much younger ex-boyfriend of her niece.

Set in Edinburgh, the 3 novels in this series take us through the streets of Scotland on sunny days and days with unpredictable weather and rain, just as we meandered in the dusty lanes of Botswana we lose ourselves in the quaint cobblestoned streets of Scotland with its bars and its art galleries as we walk with our heroine as she ponders over life's many philosophical issues, we are invited into her home where we meet Grace her outspoken maid with well-established views. And we fall a little in love ourselves with Jamie, the much younger bassoon player with his en-brosse hair, who Isabel falls in love with despite all efforts to the contrary. We sit with her in her niece's charming delicatessen and can almost picture her niece's timid assistant, Eddie who has had some traumatic incident in life which we never find out, we know intimately her niece's attraction to all the wrong sorts of men and of course we come to love Mr. Fox, a wild fox in Isabel's garden who forays for food and is subject to much contemplation by Isabel. These and more images stay with us the readers well beyond the final page. I could go on and on about these characters I have read and re-read the books

I have heard the audiobooks repeatedly, they are not just characters in a book they are people Mr McCall Smith has befriended us to and he faithfully writes about them regularly otherwise we would be totally bereft! Book 8 in the No.1 ladies Detective Agency called 'The Good Husband of Zebra Drive' was released this month and is fantastic to say the least and Mr Smith in his forum has said that the fourth Isabel novel will come out by Autumn. Yay!

1 comment:

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