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 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.


About yewnique

I am a Malaysian-born woman who is married to an Australian and now live in Melbourne, Australia. I am a mother to four children. I home school. I like reading, writing, and cooking -- not necessarily in that order. I care about grammar and spelling, but am nonchalant about the Oxford Comma. I try to follow Christ's teachings.

Posted on Monday, August 29th, 2016, in Books and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I recently read the fantasy story Uprooted (female protagonist & author), which I thought was good. Small amounts of sexual content make it not-child-friendly, but I don’t think it’s anything a teen couldn’t handle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed him. The novels themselves are probably even better, with more space to explore the characters and ideas.

    Another bit of fun trivia about McCall Smith: he is a co-founder of the Really Terrible Orchestra, an amateur group of musicians (including himself on contra-bassoon) that wasn’t good enough to play professionally, but still wanted to have a good time making music.


    • I’ve read about half a dozen of his novels by now. I was away on holiday and unable to work on my blog. I have written up some drafts of book reviews and will be putting them up as time permits. Thanks for the comment!


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