Thursday, May 14, 2009

cheerful ladies & blue shoes

This will be a final review, on my part, of the No. 1 Lady Detective Agency series. I've finished the sixth and the seventh book - "In the Company of Cheerful Ladies" and "Blue shoes and Happiness" and now there will be no more for me. The two last in a speedy row and now bye, bye Mma Ramotswe. The only thing that kept me going, reading this far in the series -

when 2-3 had been just enough, since it's basically the same story told over and over and over and... again. And no I don't care that it's a supposedly charming, kind series of books flourishing with simple words of wisdom (?) because it's really tiresomely repetitive (and nothing at all like the brilliant Sunday Philosophy club-series by same author I might add) -

is the fact that I bought "Blue Shoes and Happiness" a few years back in a 3 for 2 books special offer and just because there are suricates on the cover. And those adorable creatures are another species I'm smitten by. Yes, I have been known, more than once, to be charmed by covers only. And I don't bow my had in shame for being that superficial because most often the books have been some of the best reads I've ever had. So I can handle the exceptions to that.

Anyway. To get to this seventh book I had to wait for the Swedish translations that I borrow from my mother (who do love the series). There, my only excuse and reason for actually getting through too many of the books; I've borrowed them from mum when brain craved easy reads. Now having read them in both Swedish and English I can at least say that the translation is a *good* one, equally simple-minded written in both languages.

Admittedly, sometimes you want a book to be something simple and relaxing for the brain, something that don't keep you awake thinking after reading before planned sleep. But most of the times I do believe that books should give some sort of challenge, enlightenment, aha-experience, leave the reader wanting for more.

This series of books do nothing of the latter for me. And now that I can safely say that there won't be any more of them read by yours truly I can begin figuratively dissect - oh the joy - exactly what really bugs me in the reiterative books;

- Yes, the traditionally built women issue and musings were quite funny, for a couple of books, and as an idea, concept (and good excuse, if you happen to need one) but playing such a huge part on and on in seven of them...?

- I don't need to hear anything more about Mma Ramotswe's beloved late father Omed and what a grand man he was. Same musings. In every book.

- And that also goes for her first husband, the nasty Note.

- I'm equally not interested in hearing about Mma Potokwani at the orphan farm and the way she coax Mr Matekoni into helping her with repairs and other things all the time. Same thoughts. In every book.

- The lazy, silly garage apprentices - too annoying.

- Why do Mma R and her husband continue calling each other Mma and Mr even when they are married? That's just weird beyond words. So is the fact that they don't seem to really talk with each other or for that matter know each other all that well. How come one can decide on getting married and have a life together and keep it this superficial? I do not get that. At all.

- And that annoying 97% in the final exams at the Botswana Secretarial College for Mma Makutsi, mentioned over and over and... Gosh, I know what I'd love to do with those darn 97%.

- Myself, I don't really approve or enjoy (at least not in more than two books) the sentiment of the series with all the down-to-earth-simplifications about human, men, women behaviour. I believe that life is just not as simple as that. No matter where in the world you live.

Same story told, spruced up with a few new details, not a lot of work, easy money made...? Just a thought.

That said, there was a specific passage in the last book of mine that I enjoyed very much, it revolved around professional cooks and their notoriously bad language and behaviour towards others -

"To use strong language was a sign of bad temper and lack of concern for others. Such people were not clever or bold, each time they opened their mouths they proclaimed I am a person who is poor in words." I wholeheartedly agree on that.

More of my views on books by Alexander McCall Smith -

Folk Tales from Africa: The Girl Who Married a Lion

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate

The Right Attitude To Rain

Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations

The Kalahari Typing School for Men

The Full Cupboard of Life

Careful Use of Compliments

The 2½ Pillars of Wisdom

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