Book Review: The Cleverness of Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith
I first heard of this author — or rather, his book series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency — a number of years ago on a homeschooling forum board. I didn’t pay too much attention then (big mistake!)
I was reminded of the series when I read a book review and decided to check out this author. While I was at the library, I was at first somewhat disconcerted to not see any books written by this prolific author. I knew that some considered our library to be poorly stocked, but I didn’t think it was that bad. After I tried looking in the online catalogue, I realised I had been looking in the wrong place! The author’s surname is McCall Smith — and not just Smith as I had previously thought — and the library had many of his titles, thank you very much. So I borrowed a small handful, just to see.
I decided to start with The Cleverness of Ladies because I wanted to start with something quick and easy before delving into a longer work.
The Cleverness of Ladies is a collection of short stories each with a female protagonist.
“The Cleverness of Ladies” (the first short story) features Mma Ramotswe, the founder of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. Mr Gefeli, the owner of the Gabarone Comets football team, wants Mma Ramotswe to investigate why his goalkeeper, James Pikani — a handsome, popular, young man — is letting balls through and costing the team games. Is he being bribed?
Georgina is the slightly-irritable and abrupt-mannered proprietress of a hotel in “A High Wind in Nevis”. Her reputation becomes something of a draw and the hotel has good business. One day, almost inexplicably, Georgina becomes sweet and good-natured. What happened and will it last?
Fabrizia is a motherless young woman whose father warns her of Neapolitan men, especially those with names such as Salvatore or Pasquale. Predictably, Fabrizia falls in love with and marries a Neapolitan named Salvatore. Will this Salvatore be different?
“Namaqualand Daisies” tells the story of love, hope, unfulfillment and betrayal. And how life goes on.
In “Music Helps”, La, a middle-aged woman in Suffolk, forms an orchestra to help people overcome the sadness and hopelessness that is World War II. I believe this is a very-much condensed version of La’s Orchestra Saves the World, a book I have also borrowed from the library, but have not read.
All the stories are told in an easy-to-read manner — simple, but never simplistic. The words flow beautifully and often beg to be read out loud to bring out its full charm and poignancy.
A wonderful and enjoyable start into the world of Alexander McCall Smith.