Last night HBO aired the pilot of the new (to the U.S.) series The The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and for fans of author Alexander McCall Smith's series, of which I am a proud member, it was well worth the wait. The movie captured so much of what is wonderful about the books, including the language, colors and gentle pace of Botswana. What I may have missed just a little, was heroine Precious Ramotswe's (and Smith's) wise and wonderful observations about life, although I missed a bit of the beginning dialogue, as my daughter was so excited by the location and the animals (giraffes! elephants!) Luckily, this is on HBO, so I will get many opportunities to see it again and catch what I might have missed.
Although this show is being reviewed as a detective show, and Mma Ramotswe does indeed unravel some puzzles, that is not what the books or this movie are about. All of Smith's series are concerned with people and life and how we all muddle through it together. In the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series we are given a slice of what life must be like to lead in Botswana. The values of the "old Botswana" are frequently upheld, with more than a nudge that maybe we could all benefit by re-adopting some of what we seem to have lost in our fast and furious modern world - kindness, courtesy, patience - over a generous slice of raisin cake.
Smith taught law in Botswana, but is now an author full time, and I frankly don't know how he does it. Apart from the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, he also has other wonderful series of books, two of which I have read, both set in Edinburgh: The Sunday Philosophy Club series and the 44 Scotland Street series. Both have their charms. Isabel Dalhousie is the heroine of the Sunday Philosophy Club and she ponders questions both philosophical and romantic as she explores the finer things that Edinburgh has to offer. 44 Scotland Street is compiled from a series of stories that Smith published in The Scotsman newspaper. The tales follow an assortment of characters who live on the titular street, and in serial fashion we get to follow their exploits. Especially interesting is young Bertie, who has to deal with a smothering mother and the desire to fit in, somewhere.
I saw Smith at a reading here in D.C. a year ago and was delighted to find that he also writes books for children!
A one-man dynamo, surely, his books are not only creating small waves of happiness in the world, but must also be inspiring tourism to Botswana and Edinburgh, as I have added both of those places to my traveler's wishlist - and they were never even on my radar before.
I also just discovered that he has taken the serial novel idea online with his latest, Corduroy Mansions. So excuse me, I've got to get reading!