April 2006


The book started slowly and I was wondering for the first 50 pages or so whether the story would ever get going… It did, eventually, and once it had I think it was probably worth the wait. (Although I can see that this might have been more successful as a film!)

The story starts when teenaged Grace and her horse, Pilgrim, are involved in a horrific road accident, in which her friend and another horse are killed. Grace and Pilgrim survive, but with terrible physical and emotional damage. The physical wounds can be healed, but it is only when Grace’s mother, Annie, finds Tom Booker – the “horse whisperer” – and persuades him to work on Pilgrim that Grace or Pilgrim begin to recover, little by little, their old selves. At the same time, Annie too finds a way out of her old unhappiness.

The writing is sometimes a little clumsy – odd moments when the author’s voice seems to waver, slightly-too-obvious hooks, that sort of thing – but on the whole a decent read.

Here is an Amazon link.
I got the book from the local library.

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In this the fourth No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency story, Mma Makutsi sets up a typing school for men – businessmen, for example, who wish to learn to type but would be embarassed to do so at a secretarial college with the women. It is an instant success, and Mma Makutsi even finds a man. :-) Meanwhile, the agency is having a spot of trouble with some new competition…

Others in the series:
The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls

This is the third story featuring Mma Ramotswe.

(The others were The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and Tears of the Giraffe.)

It is well up to the usual standard and, if you liked the first two, you’ll like this one as well. Since I have waxed lyrical about the characters and setting in the last two posts, in this one I may as well tell you about one of the cases.

The case after which the book is named – one investigated by the blossoming Mma Makutsi – is a piece of background research into the finalists for a beauty competition which has in the past been plagued by embarassing bad-girl winners. The ladies are to choose the winner in advance, based on her character rather than her looks – now doesn’t that make a novel and refreshing take on the way these contests are fixed?

A sequel to The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, this book is again just as much about Mma Ramotswe herself, and her life in Gabarone, as it is about the cases she has to solve.

In this sequel we really start to know her and her friends – Mr J L B Matekoni, the marvellously gifted and honest car mechanic who has asked her to marry him; Mma Matsuki, her clever and ambitious secretary; Mma Potokwane, the irresistibly determined woman who runs the local “orphan farm”… In fact, the people and places are what really makes these books: they are so distractingly memorable, that it’s hard to see the cases as anything but a sideshow!

Mma Ramotswe is a traditionally built woman living in Gabarone, the capital of Botswana. She runs her own private detective agency, which she set up after her beloved father died, leaving her wealthy enough (which is to say, with a large herd of fine cattle to sell) to do so.

The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a rambling tale about a kind woman solving other people’s problems with uncommon cleverness and bravery. The one thing that shines out in the book is Mma Ramotswe’s unwavering love for her homeland, for its people and its ways and, above all perhaps, for her late father. A lovely read.

On the front of this book it says “a work of comic genuis” (Independent on Sunday). It’s true.

This is the story of a Tuscan mountain with two foreign occupants. One is writer Gerald, a camp and wildly self-deluded Englishman, ghostwriter to assorted strange celebrities. The other is musician Marta, a talented fugitive from fictional East European hell-hole Voynovia, and in denial about the fact that the intellectual film with the famous director for which she is composing the score is, in fact, a porn movie.

Gerald and Marta both wished for total isolation so having any neighbour at all is a disappointment but, worse, they cannot stand one another. Yet they become increasingly neighbourly somehow and drink startling amounts of Fernet Branca, each astonished by the quantity that the other manages to consume.

The best bit is the recipes. They are insane. The book is worth reading, just for the recipes.

This is the story of a Bangladeshi woman, Nazneen, who comes to London to be the wife of Chanu, a much older man. As a character, Chanu is a particularly memorable: infuriating, hilariously self-important but, in the end, a real person too, with insecurities, humility and love.

The book is funny, touching and absorbing. It is the story of how Nazneen grows into her new life, far from home. She learns with painful slowness how to make sense of this wholly foreign land and of her children, who grow up to reject their parent’s traditional values. Eventually, surprisingly, she becomes something much more powerful than a mere dutiful wife and mother.

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