S4L Book Club – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

S4L Book Club - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

What do you think of Smith’s sense of place and his ability to place you into it?

I felt that Africa was one of the characters. Did others feel this way?

Categories: Reading

4 replies »

  1. I felt that Africa was a Setting, in a really, big, capital S kind of way. Not neccessarily a character though. Maybe because the characters are all from Africa and feel connected to it. It seems like other books I’ve read that are set in Africa tend to be from an outsider’s point of view. Ok, I’m actually thinking of movies like “Out of Africa” and “I Dreamed of Africa”

  2. I’m not sure I understand what it means to see Africa as another character, so please explain, Becca.

    I didn’t note a lot of scenery description as one often finds when a story is set in a unique place. I’m not proud of this, and I can’t believe I’m going to admit it publicly, but I often gloss over scenery descriptions, especially if there are many, if they are overly flowery, or if they are long.

    I’ve never been to Africa, and I long to go there, so I think I would have liked more setting description. Or…maybe it was there, and I glossed over it!

    I felt the Africa-ness more through cultural descriptions: the attitudes toward women, their weight, the quantity of tea consumed, the kind of work people were doing, the family relationships, the customs and superstitions, etc. I thought that Africa-ness was woven so tightly and completely into the story as to be inseparable from it. It didn’t call attention to itself the way long flowery scenery descriptions do.

    I’m attracted to the Africa-ness of the story.

  3. I think we are really saying much the same thing. I like Kat’s idea of Setting and Jen’s of Africa-ness. When I said I felt that Africa was a character, I meant that I felt that I was interacting with Africa, as well as the people she had shaped.

    My question was actually about sense of place, not just description and if Alexander McCall Smith was able to put you there. I know that for me he did.

    Jen, I agree with you completely about overly verbose and flowery. I felt that Smith managed to avoid this very well and that his descriptions were effectively incorporated into the story in a manner that enhanced the narrative rather than interrupting it.

    I feel favorite quotes coming on!

    “But there was also the view, which again could appear on no inventory…And beyond the acacia, over the dusty road, the roofs of the town under a cover of trees and scrub brush, on the horizon, in a blue shimmer of heat, the hills, like improbable overgrown termite mounds.”
    “It was a world that seemed to have no end and that, I think,is what made Africa in those days so different. There was no end to it. A man could walk, or ride, forever, and he would never get anywhere.”

  4. Dang! Again I forgot to note Lines We Love.

    I especially like “A man could walk, or ride, forever, and he would never get anywhere.”

    Could that be a metaphor for life? If we make it one, does it please or displease you? Do we ever really get anywhere? Does it matter?

    That seems to support the “it’s the journey, not the destination” theory.