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The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency
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Jane Gault



Joined: 21 May 2003
Posts: 10
Location: York

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2003 9:52 am    Post subject: The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency Reply with quote

I've just read the Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Andrew McCall Smith which seems to be very popular. Although I enjoyed reading it, I'd be interested to hear other people's views on it. I was surprised to find out that, although it's written from the point of view of a black African woman, it's written by a middle-aged white man. I don't want to be too PC about it, but I felt much of it was stereotypical and isn't the faux naive way it is written rather patronising?

What did anyone else think?
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Palimpsest



Joined: 19 May 2003
Posts: 7
Location: Cambridge

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jane,

Why not come over to Palimpsest, the online literary community, to discuss this book? We have only started in the last few months, and are always on the look out for new members.

We offer a book group, reviews, member's writing, creative writing competitions and more.

What's more, it's all free, and completley free of any advertising.

Why not have a look:

http://www.palimpsest.org.uk
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Clare L



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 1:35 pm    Post subject: Precious Ramotswe Reply with quote

I disagree - I find the writing in this book utterly charming. I think that if you arereading too much into it, and finding it patronising, it's a shame you missed the author's subtle humour. Precious Ramotswe is portrayed as a vivacious, caring, warm, intuitive and strong woman, who also comes across as being sensitive yet business-headed. How is this patronising?
The author clearly has a very soft spot for Botswana and Africa in general, and knows his subject matter. His characterisation is rich, colourful and has depth.
I was really refreshed to read this series (I was unable to say no to reading the sequels) because of its innocence, lack of hype, and the author clearly doesn't have to shock his audience to create an effect.
Despite this book's strong sense of place, the emotions, characters and dilemmas posed in the novels could just as easily be set in Surrey.
I loved it, and everyone I know who has read it has loved it, including my husband's Zimbabwean family.
Any other Precious Ramotswe fans out there?!
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Clare Lawrence
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Maggie



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clare,
Regarding your comments about The Number 1 Ladies Detective etc, I am afraid I have to agree with Jane Gault. I am a Black woman born in Britain and interested in African/Black literature, and I’m looking to write a Detective novel set in North London.

I have a copy of the mentioned book and found it difficult to progress with it as I found it incredibly patronizing bordering on to racism. I don't want to sound alarmist but it does puts me off when someone attempts to write a book about a set of people that they may not know about. In the case of this book, what hits me in the first chapter is how the author, through the protagonist, is subtly stating how he would like black people to be!! God! Wouldn't it wonderful if Black people could ne nice, benevolent, accommodating and never having a bad word to say about anyone.

This doesn't just happen in fiction, it is also happening in real life. Just look at Condeleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Kofi Annan, Baroness Amos, Baroness Scotland etc, These people have been given their political appointments, not just because they are clever but because they have many of the necessary qualilties mentioned above in order for them to get along! Its strange in these political correct times that a millionaire academic should have the audacity to know what it is like to be poor, black, African and female!

As I said I was born in this country and lived amongst White people for most of my life, but I would never be so presumptuous to believe that I know White people so well that I could write about them!
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Clare L



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

so what you are saying is that the author is racist because he has shown Mma Ramotswe to be a thoroughly good person with high morals?! Is this political correctness gone crazy? Can't we just enjoy a good-humoured book without over-analysing? I might draw your attention to the main character's description of a white person; not at all endearing, I may add! But I don't take offence.
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Jane Gault



Joined: 21 May 2003
Posts: 10
Location: York

PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2004 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a really interesting and complex argument. As a white person, I don't have the insight to judge whether I would find it patronising if I were black and I don't think there is an analogy that can be drawn (ie an African person writing from the point of view of a white person - it's just not the same for obvious reasons) but I can understand Maggie's point.

I would say though, that Alexander McCall Smith may write in a mock-African style but the novels don't stand comparison with writers like Chinua Achebe or Buchi Emecheta, whose books, while deceptively simple in style, provide strong characterisation (without stereotyping) and profound cultural and political insight. McC Smith's ambitions were obviously not at that level but writing pastiche does beg comparisons.
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Maggie



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2004 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No! I'm saying the author is racist because by making the character Black, good with high morals, is tantamount to saying this is how we would like Black people to be. I believe the author has good intentions but he has gone about it the wrong way.

Political correctness gone crazy? No I don't think so. PC has allowed a Black woman like me to hold opinions like this which I wouldn't dream of doing years ago. Reading all sorts of novels in the past where Blacks are depicted in the most racist way where one could only accept and not challenge. But things are a little different now. Whites who take the risk of writing about Black people must accept that there is a whole of chunk of us out there who are not scared to say when they have got it wrong.

As Jane Gault says, if you want to read authentic African novels, read Things Fall Apart or No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe, or read any of the novels by Buchi Emecheta who makes it absolutely clear what it is like being an African woman. In fact check the reading list in this month's newsletter since they are featuring Nigerian/African novels. There's enough there depicting Africanness accurately.

I'm sorry you cannot understand my viewpoint.
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Clare L



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks guys - really interesting discussion; thought-provoking! I'll definitely check out the recommended titles in your messages - thanks for those.

Just out of interest - I'm currently reading 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' with my book group, and wondered what others have to say about it? I haven't really got going with it yet, but would welcome any thoughts!

Cheers everyone
Clare x
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Clare Lawrence
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maddy



Joined: 23 Apr 2004
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2004 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i love Precious,
read the book about a black women, as written by a white man.
all is insight and informative, make your assumption and enjoy the debate, but don't stop reading this is how we make our own morals and ethics.
i would hate to have missed "To kill a Mocking Bird" [/quote]
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Maggie



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2004 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

However, I will contradict myself now and add that I do enjoy South African literature. Writers such as Nadine Gordimer, Christopher Hope, Gillian Slovo, Pamela Jooste and the Zimbabwean writer Doris Lessing - all of these novelists convey their comtempt about racism/Apartheid and they are so honest in their depiction of the situation in their countries that it takes my breath away.

I feel, reading these novels, that all that needs to be said, is said to the point that there is anything left for me to add.


Last edited by Maggie on Wed May 12, 2004 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total
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clare



Joined: 07 Jul 2002
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maggie

please can you recommend titles by Pamela Jooste and Christopher Hope - I'd like to try them.

Clare C
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Maggie



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2004 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Clare,

The books I recommend are:

People Like Ourselves by Pamela Jooste – a stinging observation of affluent whites trying to cope in the new South Africa now that things have changed. The days of tea on the lawn are over and "Madams" of the affluent suburbs have to adjust.

Learning To Fly by Christopher Hope – a book of short stories originally written and published in 1982 as ‘Private Parts' then published again in 1990. Again most of these stories are about the tension between Blacks and Whites during the Apartheid era but I find the stories incredibly insightful and so keenly observed that it leaves the hairs on my arms to stand on ends..... I also own a copy of ‘Darkest England’ but have not read that yet.

Quite a few of the books that are on this month’s list I have read and they are excellent reads!

Enjoy!

Maggie


Last edited by Maggie on Wed May 12, 2004 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total
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caroline



Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Posts: 18
Location: Ipswich

PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2004 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clare

I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and, interestingly, it's someone writing from the point of view of someone completely different from himself. I wonder how people with Asperger's Syndrome feel about the book?

Caroline
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Maggie



Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2004 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And to make matters worse.........

........there is to be a film made of the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency directed by Sidney Pollack and co-produced by Anthony Minghella.

Apparently Minghella has been approached by Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Queen Latifah to play the precious Precious. The producer said he wanted to keep it ‘true to Alexander’s vision.’ (Oh dear!) Also it is said that Laura Bush (Pres. George Bush's wife) wrote a letter to McCall declaring Ladies' Detective as currently her favourite read and liked Precious's vision of the world (are we to infer that she does not like her husband's?).

So there you are folks, I’m outvoted.


I think I am done on this topic.


Maggie
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Kate



Joined: 13 Jul 2002
Posts: 27
Location: Brighton

PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2004 3:06 pm    Post subject: Web Source for African literature Reply with quote

Dear All

Here's another good website for African literature:

http://www.africanbookscollective.com/acatalog/lit_index.html

Check out the real thing!

Kate icon_cool.gif
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