Oh my goodness, I have not enjoyed a book nearly as much as this one in a very long time. I'm talking about the kind of enjoyment that has very little to do with being in suspense or held captive by a story line. I'm talking about good characters that you want to see succeed in life and you desperately want to be real and not fictional. The main character of "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith is Precious Ramotswe and I wish she were my neighbor so we could be best friends. Alas, she lives in Botswana, Africa and with her inheritance from her father, has started up the first detective agency run by a woman in her country. She knows that she'll meet up with skepticism, but it confident in her ability to be a good detective. Mma Ramotswe is clever, insightful, observant, unwavering, determined, and fair-minded. She wears a size 22 dress and has men proposing to her right and left. She doesn't think much of men in general, other than her sweet father, but she tolerates a few kind friends. She's an absolute treasure and one of my favorite protagonists in a long time.
The story is told in such a matter-of-fact way that you find yourself agreeing with everything that goes through Precious' thought processes. The word choices and pacing make you hear the narrative in English with an African accent. There are sections that were laugh-out-loud hilarious and other parts that were desperately sad. The sad parts are when she encounters prejudice and antiquated beliefs in witch doctors and magic. The part that made me laugh for days is when Precious is contemplating a doctor's ability to keep confidences, as opposed to a lawyer who likes to tell jokes at his client's expense. She realizes that she doesn't have all that many interesting secrets anyway, medically speaking, other than corns on her feet and constipation. However, Precious thinks that's a pretty common affliction with enough sufferers to form their own political party. However, what could they accomplish as a political party anyway? They'd try to pass legislation, but fail.
Precious describes an Africa that is both beautiful and desolate. She's an African through and through and doesn't have much patience for her countrymen who sell their African souls to be more American. I wish there were more books like these out there that make people want to see Africa and it's people. It's a beautiful book and there are three more about Precious, so I've got some fun reading ahead of me.