Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander MaCall Smith

Strange how characters in books can influence behaviour. I once came across a subject called 'the role of literature in society' that suggested the purpose of stories is to allow people to access 'life scripts' on which to model their actions. It's true of all kinds, from folk tales to contemporary fiction.

I was reminded of this when I re-read The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency for my crime reading group.

There can be few readers who haven't heard of Alexander MaCall Smith's charming stories of Botswana's lady detective and her little white van. Then came the excellent TV series, so it was interesting to compare. I thought the TV casting of the main character - a woman of empathy, intelligence and experience - was spot on.

On this reading, I was aware of the the darker undertones as well as the author's love for Africa, voiced by his heroine:

'Mma Ramotswe did not want Africa to change. She did not want her people to become like everyone else, soulless, selfish, forgetful of what it means to be an African, or, worse still, ashamed of Africa. She would not be anything but an African, even if somebody came up to her and said, 'Here is a pill, the very latest thing. Take it and it will make you into an American.' She would say no. Never. No thank you. '

The blurb describes Mma Ramotswe is 'an African Miss Marples' ;I think she's miles better. I'm not so patriotic, but I think of her several times a day, whenever I drink my redbush tea. Somehow she has worked her way into my 'life-script'.

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