Thursday, July 12, 2012
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
In keeping with my mystery kick, I opted to read The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I had heard the title often tossed about as a book club worthy book, and I should have paid more attention to that association. This book was not, as I expected, about a woman or women acting as detectives, solving mysteries and being plucky. This was more of a commentary on African life. The mysteries were lackluster, the scenery was tremendous.
It took me a long time to actually get into the book because of my preconceived notions. I normally avoid books set in non-western countries because I often feel that the author is trying to make their readers feel guilty for their easy lives. I also have trouble relating to the characters involved. Initially, I thought I would hate this book for precisely that reason. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. The writing was simple, but I still felt that I could picture Mma Ramotswe, and Botswana, and all of her surroundings. The author managed to make the whole novel relate-able, but incredibly simple.
The mysteries were, as I mentioned before, lackluster. They were incredibly predictable, and not very interesting. It wasn't until the kidnapped boy was introduced that I really cared anything about the mysteries, and even that plot was thin. While it did serve to "inform" me of African life (I have no idea how realistic the stereotypes in this book are), it wasn't very deep. The writing style was also on the simple side. I often became annoyed at the dialogue because it was so formulaic and unrealistic. There was no complicated language or sentence structure whatsoever, which becomes very grating. It almost felt like I was reading a book for a child, apart from the subject matter.
The ending also disappointed me. I listened to the audiobook version, and was actually shocked that well, it just ended! There was no explanation, no conclusion, and no wrapping up. It was incredibly unsatisfactory.
Despite my personal disinterest in the book I can certainly see why it has received the acclaim that it has. McCall Smith has managed to introduce several debatable topics, and it really would be a great novel to discuss at a book club. Personally, it wasn't my thing. I would have preferred a more substantial plot to go with the intense characters and background.