When Mma Ramotswe hit the literary scene as the No. 1 Ladies Detective, she made quite a splash and it wasn’t just her “traditional build”. Alexander McCall Smith, a native of what is now Zimbabwe, has managed to create a credible African female character – not an easy task. McCall Smith clearly knows his subject matter well and takes great care to create an Africa that most of his readers don’t know exists: peaceful, charming, modern, traditional and most of all personal.
As someone who lives in the part of the world that McCall Smith writes about, it’s the balance of the modern and the traditional that is so hard to get right in contemporary Africa. Where else in the world could you drive past a mud hut with a pickup in the driveway and a satellite tv dish on the roof?
It’s this delicate balance that McCall seems to hit so squarely on the head.
In a similarly subtle vein, the mysteries that arrive on the doorstep of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency are gentle and nonviolent, caught somewhere between where Africa has been and where she’s going, but also cutting to the heart of what makes us all human: love, jealously, lust, greed and compassion.
What the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency doesn’t have much of is action.
Not entirely unlike Africa herself, McCall Smith’s storyline are more talk than action, with characters focusing on reviewing their interactions with one another far more than solving the mysteries at hand. In fact, it is usually this pondering of life and humanity that leads our heroine, Mma Ramotswe, to her mystery’s solution. In turn, McCall Smith’s serial mysteries have a somewhat formulaic pattern, not entirely unlike the way most of us would think of everyday life.
As Mma Ramotswe moves from our imaginations to HBO, it will be a challenge to break away from McCall Smith’s redundant tendencies and continue to capture a viewer who wants to see something different each week.
If there’s one thing the series should keep coming back to, it’s the stunning visual of Botswana’s clear open sky and endless veld.
-posted by bodyinmotion