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Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

EtherealJinxed | Book Review | The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

What happens when you are reading too many detective books? You expect books with similar name to follow if not same, but with a similar story-line of whodunnit. And with that expectation, I started off reading The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, anticipating lot of suspense, murder mysteries to solve and of course more than one detective. But what did I find!! The exact opposite. And that was a dampener for me and resulted in a lesser rating for this book.

Though the book was written focusing on life in Africa (do not know much, since there is only one other book I have read till now), this has been highlighted by others I have interacted with that the characters and scenes have been kept realistic. Read this line from the book below and you can get a flavor of what is to come and that is good, only if I had a different set of expectations:

The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing. That’s how most people thought.

Have you read Indian writers Ruskin Bond and Sudha Murthy and now think of their writing in fiction style and you have this book! Just remember mysteries are a very small part of these stories and you will like it.

Keep watching my blog for more book reviews!

Book blurb:
When Precious Ramotswe has only just set up shop as Botswana’s No.1 (and only) lady detective when she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. However, the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witch doctors.

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witch doctors.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency received two Booker Judges’ Special Recommendations and was voted one of the International Books of the Year and the Millennium by the Times Literary Supplement..

About the author:
Alexander McCall Smith, often referred to as ‘Sandy’,  is one of the world’s most prolific and best-loved authors. For many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the UK and abroad before turning his hand to writing fiction. He has written and contributed to more than 100 books including specialist academic titles, short story collections, and a number of immensely popular children’s books.

Alexander’s various series of books have been translated into forty-six languages and become bestsellers throughout the world. These include the popular The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series.

Alexander has received numerous awards for his writing and holds twelve honorary doctorates from universities in Europe and North America. In 2007 he received a CBE for services to literature and in 2011 was honoured by the President of Botswana for services through literature to the country. In 2015 he received the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction and in 2017, The National Arts Club (of America) Medal of Honor for Achievement in Literature.

Website: alexandermccallsmith.co.uk
Twitter: @mccallsmith

Rating: 7/10
Genre: Mystery
Book Name: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Pages: 235
Publication Year: 1998

Book Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

EtherealJinxed|Book Review | Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Genre: Historical Fiction
Book Name: Things Fall Apart
Author: Chinua Achebe
Pages: 224
Publication Year: 1958
Publisher: Anchor
Notable Points: Made into radio program,
movie, mini-series

This fictional book seems to emerge from the reality of the living conditions and interactions of Nigerian tribal communities in the pre-colonial era and the subtle changes the missionaries did without being extra-aggressive. Chinua Achebe has also explained in great detail on why a character behaves thus with others. All emotions – love, heartbreak, frustration, anger, sacrifice, retirement and the human psychiatry have been given their own spaces and scope to intermingle with each other.

A tough book to read from the start, where one may get confused with the names of the characters sounding very similar to each other. Probably, this is how outsiders may feel about Indian names as well. So that’s normal. But once you remember the character a name is referring to, you get deeply involved with the same. All that ends in a story is not supposed to be well and happy; the ending though was perfect in this case with the tint of tragedy.

It’s been years since Things Fall Apart was published but it’s still one of the favorite books of literature with many schools/ colleges recommending the same (not in India).

Excerpt from the back cover of the book:
Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries.

These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

About the author:
Chinua Achebe was a novelist, poet, professor at Brown University and critic. He is best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely read book in modern African literature.

Achebe’s novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influences, and the clash of values during and after the colonial era. His style relied heavily on the Igbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. He also published a number of short stories, children’s books, and essay collections.

Rating: 8/10
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