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Historical Group Reads > Feb/Mar 2011: The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith

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message 1: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Welcome to the Feb/Mar 2011 Group read of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. This is the first in the popular long-running series set in Botswana.

Our discussion leader this month is Dalene and the discussion will begin on Tuesday.

Happy reading! Donna


message 2: by Almeta (last edited Feb 15, 2011 04:37AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Dumela mma! Dumela rra!

What a fun series of very easy reads. There is a new culture to learn about, charming characters, little problems to solve.

I read this after having rented the TV series, which I loved, so I was influenced by that. The books and the televised version differ slightly, but the stories are basically the same.

I think you will love reading this. AND I'm going to follow your discussion, so that I can join in, even though I read these a couple months ago.

I'll put the tea kettle on!


message 3: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
A friend from South Africa sent me some bush tea a while back, so I've got the kettle on now and I'm really enjoying re-reading this. It's such a gentle story. I hven't seen the TB series, but hope I will some day.


message 4: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments 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 witchdoctors.

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.
From the website http://www.randomhouse.com/features/m...


message 5: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments A little information regarding the titles used in the book. Mma is the term used to address a woman, and may be placed before her name. It is pronounced "ma" (with a long a). Rra is the rough equivalent of "mister". It is pronounced "rar", but with a slight rolling of the second r.


message 6: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments What edition of the book are you reading? Regular trade edition, movie tie-in edition, large print, hardcover, audio, or e-book.


message 7: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Almeta wrote: "Dumela mma! Dumela rra!

What a fun series of very easy reads. There is a new culture to learn about, charming characters, little problems to solve.

I read this after having rented the TV ..."


Thanks for joining in. I nominated the book because I hadn't read it yet. I started the book last night and so far have enjoyed it. I also wondered about the TV series and may have to check into that after reading a few more installments.


message 8: by Dalene (last edited Feb 15, 2011 09:34AM) (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Okay so after starting the book last night and getting a few chapters in (about five), my first question is:

After learning about Precious Ramotswe's relationships and experiences, is that why she gave her detective agency the name she did?


message 9: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Hayes wrote: "A friend from South Africa sent me some bush tea a while back, so I've got the kettle on now and I'm really enjoying re-reading this. It's such a gentle story. I hven't seen the TB series, but hope..."

Do you have something like NETFLIX, a mail rental company? That's who I rented the season's discs from, here in the states. You really should try to find it. Many of the actors are from Botswana, and the lady who plays Precious is perfect. The discs have a special feature section that profiles the actors and other interesting items. It was filmed in Botswana.

I wish that there had been more than just season one. :(


message 10: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
No, no Netflix or similar here in Italy *sigh* Copyright problems or something. Stuff comes up on satellite, it just takes a while to come round again if I miss the program. I don't think these have been on here, however.


message 11: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Hayes wrote: "No, no Netflix or similar here in Italy *sigh* Copyright problems or something. Stuff comes up on satellite, it just takes a while to come round again if I miss the program. I don't think these hav..."

mi dispiace, I'm sorry to have teased you with it! ;o)


message 12: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Found this blog which gives definitions of some of the strange words and expressions found in the book.

http://carolinebookbinder.blogspot.co...

@Almeta: Non ti preoccupare! Not to worry. I have too many books lying around anyway ;-)


message 13: by Almeta (last edited Feb 20, 2011 03:42AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Hayes wrote: "Found this blog which gives definitions of some of the strange words and expressions found in the book.

http://carolinebookbinder.blogspot.co...

@Almeta: Non t..."


Thanks for the link. I skipped over the words when I read the books before, not knowing what they meant (I hate that), but getting the tone. Pretty easy to get what "dagga" was...universal language! :O)
It was nice to read the actual definitions.


message 14: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Dalene wrote: "Okay so after starting the book last night and getting a few chapters in (about five), my first question is:

After learning about Precious Ramotswe's relationships and experiences, is that why s..."


I certainly think that was at least a part of the reason. Maybe on second thought a big part of the reason. The title both reaffirms the status of women and would also attract women as clients especially those who might feel they cannot do anything to change their situation.


message 15: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Donna wrote: "Dalene wrote: "Okay so after starting the book last night and getting a few chapters in (about five), my first question is:

After learning about Precious Ramotswe's relationships and experiences..."


After finishing the book, it seems like the under lying theme maybe status of women. As I keep feeling this theme, I wondered how or why a UK writer would know or want to write about women's rights in Africa.


message 16: by Dalene (last edited Feb 18, 2011 08:01AM) (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments So I finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope others in this group get a chance to read it. Okay so my big question How did you like JLB Matekoni? And the ending with him? **Be careful to mark your spoilers**


message 17: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 9 comments I loved these books. I love the fact that in many of the stories, seemingly small and random events wind up part of a bigger picture. I love the way the author immerses us in a culture, not by dumping us in, but by unrolling a carpet that shows a rich texture and a multifaceted world. And, I loved the fact that they are quick reads. Hurray for Precious Romotswe


message 18: by Luann (new)

Luann (azbookgal) | 47 comments I've read the first four in this series, but it's been a while. I always meant to read more, but somehow let other books get in the way. My favorites so far were the first two. I just checked out five and six from the library, so should get to them soon. I LOVE the "traditionally built" Precious Ramotswe!


message 19: by Almeta (last edited Feb 20, 2011 03:46AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Dalene wrote: As I keep feeling this theme, I wondered how or why a UK writer would know or want to write about women's rights in Africa. ..."

Although he has lived in Scotland and Northern Ireland, he was born in Bulawayo (formerly the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, what is now known as Zimbabwe) He was at one time a law professor at and co-founder of the University of Botswana. I think that he is again living in Scotland.


message 20: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Dalene wrote: "Okay so after starting the book last night and getting a few chapters in (about five), my first question is:

After learning about Precious Ramotswe's relationships and experiences, is that why she gave her detective agency the name she did?..."


I have kept quiet about this question for a while, to give everyone a chance to discuss it, without my influence. Unfortunately (or to me fortunately) my memory is influenced by the televised series.

I do not remember if the naming issue was focused on in the book. The TV version made a rather touching presentation of mounting the sign over the door. (view spoiler) I just tear up thinking about it!


message 21: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments HEY! HBO On Demand is featuring this all of February, and until March 6th.

And I just found out that there are actually activist groups demanding another season be produced!

Sorry that I keep harping on this, but I just think it is that good. (And apparently so do others.)


message 22: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (cinnabarb) | 8406 comments I love Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi. Wonderful characters! And the actresses that play the parts in the TV series are spot on.


message 23: by Bill (last edited Feb 20, 2011 06:33AM) (new)

Bill The tv series is somewhat different, with some additional characters but it has the lovely feel of the books, the same gentleness and respect for the country. I loved both. I've heard some people say the follow-on books are somewhat boring, meaning more of the same, but in my mind that is no bad thing. The gentleness and lovely pacing are what I really enjoy in the stories. Glad you enjoyed your introduction to Mma Ramotswe


message 24: by Shirley (last edited Feb 20, 2011 08:45AM) (new)

Shirley Schwartz | 5 comments Read this one awhile ago and enjoyed it. I never did get back to the series though since I'm trying to get through some series right now and it seems to be taking a long time. I look forward to the April/May book to read along with everyone. I just joined the group.


message 25: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments I'm not one that typically watches a movie and read the same book as I cannot relax enough to enjoy both. However, from all the talk on the series, I may have to give it a try.


message 26: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Almeta wrote: "Dalene wrote: As I keep feeling this theme, I wondered how or why a UK writer would know or want to write about women's rights in Africa. ..."

Although he has lived in Scotland and Northern Irel..."


Thanks for the information. I have been on a his website, but haven't poked around to all of that about his personal life. I just find it amazing when a man (or woman) can write in the other gender's viewpoint. Another example of such an author is Nicholas Sparks.


message 27: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
It is amazing when someone can write in the another gender or age. This was commented on with last month's read of The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley and his ability to write from the point of view of a 12 yr old girl.


message 28: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
I love the character of JLB Matekoni and he just gets better and better as the series moves on. He's a quiet generous man just trying to make things better for the people in his life. He is an interesting counterpoint to Precious's ex-husband and men like him.


message 29: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments New question:

Do you think Mma. Ramotswe’s father would be proud of the business she started? How is it different than the type of business he might have expected her to buy with her inheritance?


message 30: by Bill (new)

Bill Dalene wrote: "New question:

Do you think Mma. Ramotswe’s father would be proud of the business she started? How is it different than the type of business he might have expected her to buy with her inheritance?"


I think he would have been very proud of her for her independence and success and that she was helping people solve their problems. Ref your comment about his skill at presenting the story in the other gender's viewpoint, I must say when I read the first book I thought the author's name was Alexandra Smith, not Alexander. It surprised me when I found out it was a man.


message 31: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Dalene wrote: "New question:

Do you think Mma. Ramotswe’s father would be proud of the business she started? How is it different than the type of business he might have expected her to buy with her inheritance?"


I think he would have expected her (and a husband) to carry on his cattle business. He would have been proud of his accumulated wealth and legacy. And would not have known of any other way, especially for a woman.

Having said that though, I think he would be proud of her. I'll bet she was an independant child, and so he would not be surprised that she sold his cattle and started a business more to her liking.


message 32: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Almeta wrote: "Dalene wrote: "New question:

Do you think Mma. Ramotswe’s father would be proud of the business she started? How is it different than the type of business he might have expected her to buy with ..."


I agree with you. For what he knew at the time of his death, he wouldn't have expected anything different. However, he has also given her that self-confidence she has to be successful.


message 33: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Bill wrote: "Dalene wrote: "New question:

Do you think Mma. Ramotswe’s father would be proud of the business she started? How is it different than the type of business he might have expected her to buy with ..."


I looked at his bio on Wikipedia and he is the father of two daughters so maybe that gave him some of his insight.


message 34: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Discuss some of the mysteries Mma. Ramotswe solves. Which is your favorite case and why?


message 35: by Andrea (new)

Andrea (Willowpoint) | 1 comments Hi, I'm new to this group. I love this series, so I am going to re-read this book as it's been awhile. I realize that I'm a little late with this part of the discussion, as it was (sort of) covered earlier. Another way to enjoy this series is throught the audio bookI listened to quite a few of the books in this series on audio books. I thought it was great as I got to hear the dialects and it made me feel more immersed in the stories and the culture.


message 36: by Almeta (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 182 comments Although the other stories were more light-hearted, I liked the story of the missing boy the most. It gave the view of some of the country and its culture that the others did not.


message 37: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Andrea wrote: "Hi, I'm new to this group. I love this series, so I am going to re-read this book as it's been awhile. I realize that I'm a little late with this part of the discussion, as it was (sort of) covere..."

I wondered how the audio version would be. I may continue the series in audio instead of print. Haven't decided.


message 38: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Almeta wrote: "Although the other stories were more light-hearted, I liked the story of the missing boy the most. It gave the view of some of the country and its culture that the others did not."

I also liked this story. When she first asked to follow up on the boy, I wasn't sure that she would accept. She was torn in her decision to help because she was just starting out and really needed paying cases, but she also felt like she should help out. I liked how she continued searching while working the other cases.


message 39: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (cinnabarb) | 8406 comments I've listened to the audios of this series, read by Lisette Lacat. These are wonderful! I love the way Lacat gives life to the characters with her naration.


message 40: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Dalene wrote: "Discuss some of the mysteries Mma. Ramotswe solves. Which is your favorite case and why?"

I liked the one where she was asked to find out about a woman's philandering husband. (view spoiler) It wasn't a real mystery but was full of "local color".


message 41: by Carrie (new)

Carrie (goodreadscomkeridwynn) New to the group here, but just finished listening to this book last night. Although I had a little trouble with the beginning with it jumping around some, overall, I really really enjoyed the book and how this wasn't like the typical "action-y" mystery stories, but instead was more about people and their lives and foibles and how it made them human and easy to relate to (if that makes sense). As for the narrator, I enjoyed her, despite being able to hear her tongue, lips etc sound at times. Just as Barbara wrote, she helped give life to the characters. My favorite case had to be with the last one (I don't want to give away spoilers)...suffice to say, the one with the boy.


message 42: by Dalene (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Kari wrote: "I just finished this book and I really liked. Sometimes I in the mood for a light mystery without any killing.

I do think her father would be proud of her.

My favorite was The Boy and the ph..."


Kari - I was glad to get it off my TBR shelf as well. However, I do want to continue with the series. Found them on NetLibrary. With all the discussion of the narrators, I thought I would try the next one on audio.


message 43: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Hi Everyone. Here is the link to the older discussion we had about the overall series and there is a good bit about the TV version of the books too.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...


message 44: by Lalalalaaa (new)

Lalalalaaa | 3 comments I love this series, so charming! Hope you all enjoy it.


message 45: by Dalene (last edited Mar 01, 2011 10:13AM) (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Kari touched on the different cases that Precious Ramotswe takes on and solves. As put in the discussion question below, she (Precious) does take on more "mysteries of lives" than actual who dunnits.

What makes Precious Ramotswe such a charming protagonist? What kind of woman is she? How is she different from the usual detective? Why does she feel “called” to help her fellow Africans “solve the mysteries of their lives” [p. 4]?


message 46: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne (yfaith) I have read all of the books in this series. Really love the characters. Just finished The Double comfort safari club. I think this one is my favorite, can't wait for the next one to see if they have the wedding for grace and phuti.


message 47: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2178 comments Mod
Hi Kari, I think Precious is called to help others because of all the problems she faced personally. I think she sees the changes that are coming to Botswana and wants to help other balance the traditional values of their culture with the benefits of modern opportunities, not always an easy task.


message 48: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Michael | 674 comments I've read most of the series and enjoyed them very much. My mystery reading is pretty broad and I enjoy the slower pace and focus on 'small mysteries' in this series as well as the very different culture and setting. I found Precious a very different but fascinating character. For me, the test of how well I like a series is whether it ends up on my personal bookshelves to be re-read when I can't get to the library and the first three of these books are there.


message 49: by Dalene (last edited Mar 06, 2011 06:18PM) (new)

Dalene  | 37 comments Nearing a close on the discussion of the book, what was your feeling on this book? Did you enjoy the "cozy"? Did you enjoy the setting? Did you enjoy the character(s)? What was your favorite part of the book? Will you continue the series?


message 50: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn (kathrynlively) A lovely book worth a re-read. I read this one years ago, and a number of the books that followed. Eventually I fell off the series, but this might be an impetus to get back on.


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