Friday, January 1, 2010

The Book or the Movie?

Loyal readers know that I generally lean to the dark side in my reading and movie watching, yet every now and then, one does need a break from noir. Over the past 4 or 5 years, Alexander McCall Smith has provided that respite for me. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is, without a doubt, one of the most entertaining, enlightening cozy mysteries I've ever come across. It's amazing to me - sexist remark coming up - that a man could create this glorious character Mma Precious Ramotswe, a young woman of such spunk, courage and woman's intuition, who, after the death of her beloved father, sells the cattle farm he left to her and moves to the capitol of Botswana, Gabarone, to open the first female detective agency.

Equally delightful is her secretary Grace Makutsi, a model of efficiency and insecurity, and a loyal friend along with the inestimable J.L.B. Matakoni, owner of Speedy Motors repair shop, and a man with a heart as big as the sky. McCall Smith, a Scot, raised and educated in Africa, writes with a love of that country and its people that shines through on every page. You cannot read this series without wanting to book the next plane to South Africa to feel these emotions for yourself. (something Don and I plan to do in 2011!)

I have been listening to this series on and off for years and have come to associate the reader, Lisette Lecat with the characters. When I read that HBO was planning to make a movie special based upon the books with none other than Anthony Minghella directing and with much influence from McCall Smith, filmed on site in Botswana, I couldn't wait to see it. I have now finished the first season and have to say that, as is seldom the case, this series is as good as if not better than the books. Can you believe it? Not only does each episode correspond exactly with the story but the choice of actors is absolutely uncanny.  Each one is precisely as I had pictured them while reading the books, especially the full figured, beautiful inside and out, Jill Scott as Precious and the  marvelous Anika Noni Rose as Grace. Meet them here:

If you believe in poetic justice then you will love this series. Common sense and street smarts are the tools that Precious and Grace utilize to solve the mysteries of the human hearts of these denizens of Botswana, with a few robberies and larger crimes thrown in along the way. Moral ambiguities are addressed as well as the social and cultural problems of South Africa like the deadly rate of AIDS deaths and the masses of orphans created by the ravages of this still untalked about disease. One episode revolves around the diamond mining business and the money that has been put back into the Botswana infrastructure because of it (unlike the blood diamonds of Sierra Leone). I hope that they hurry up and make season 2. In the meantime, if my ladies from Birmingham are still reading me, Don and I plan an MI-5 marathon for this cold, rainy, unusual Florida afternoon.


meg said...

Lovely review, thanks! I did think of the same 'sexist' idea, really: both the writer and the director (Minghella) are male, but Agency is such a delightful (feminist, even) portrayal of women.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Sallyb said...

Thank you, thank you for the comments. It's so great to get feedback and know that I'm connecting with strangers out there in some way, positive or negative, it doesn't matter.