Monday, April 26, 2010
Two Reviews of No 1 (cute, isn't it? :))
Remember how I said I could have done this review before I read the book? Well, that's somewhat true- so let me first tell you what the advance review would have said - I love Alexander McCall Smith for two -well actually three - reasons that I can think of. 1) he's a really good writer- I don't tend to encounter sentences that make me wince at all and he's really quite lyrical. 2) travel! Scotland and Botswana, of all places - I realized that if there's one genre other than romance I reliably will pick to read, it's probably books that take place in foreign places (but not war books) 3) peaceful. All those criteria apply in spades to this series, so no wonder I like it.
The main thing I think stands out about these books is the sense of peace AMS creates. He writes about this country which is basically fictionally - the people aren't all good, but even the bad ones are sort of comically villainous - they tend to be unintelligent and easily outsmarted. Sometimes the books start out slow, but I think that might be intentional. There's this mood of kind of sluggardlyness, the kind you'd have in a desert country where there's not much going on. But the people are good, and likeable and good things happen to good people. And most of all, in the end, everything is always resolved satisfactorily. And actually, even more, the really bad never touches the main characters - it's always Mma Ramotse's poor clients, but she herself never experiences more than minor discomforts, with a little heartache thrown in occasionally. Whatever it is, when I close one of these books I just shake my head, lie back, and smile - they are just happy books.
everything gets resolved in a few pages, only to get pushed aside by the next crisis/story/whatever. That sounds pretty negative, but I like George and Martha and I liked this book too - it kind of had that same kind of tongue-in-cheek humor at times. And the stories were interesting. Oh and guess what - in the end, there was a somewhat surprise (well not surprise, but not instantaneously resolved) resolution to one of the story lines... so that's something :)
What else? well I did enjoy the pearls of wisdom as always - they are always obvious truths, but I always say it's good to hear obvious truths once in a while :)
and one more thing - I felt this book kept emphasizing how kind Mma Ramotse is, which was a little weird - the truth is, i always think of her as kind of vain - with her "traditionally built"ness and "it is well known" and her red bush tea. I forgot how in the earlier books she's almost saintly, what w/ her father and losing her baby, etc. - but being told how kind she is doesn't really convince me. She comes off as nicer than Mma Makutsi, but not as nice as Mr. JLB Matekoni - but then, who is? :)
I can't decide if this book is disrespectful to Africans, since it potrays them as these pretty simple people living in this happy land that I don't think really exists - Bostwana is one of the poorest and has one of the highest AIDS rates in Africa... but I think AMS definitely sees it as a mark of respect and love - and since I never thought one bit about Botswana before, I'd say it's made a positive impression on me at least - totally on my list of places to travel!
So what's the bottom line? I definitely enjoyed it, but I kind of felt it was lacking the lullubatic (I know that's not really a word, but I can't think of the one I want) tone of the other books - on the other hand, if those are a little slow for you, this one does move a little faster... but if you need fast, you shouldn't be reading these so... 3/5
EDIT: so I was looking for a picture of George and Martha on google and it did the autofill and it was George and Martha Washington! don't think I've ever made the connection before - but I have to say, I kind of like it - phlegmatic but loyal - works, no? :)