Friday, October 15, 2010

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

60. The Double Comfort Safari Club - twelfth in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction, 2010
Kindle book - 7
finished, 9/25/10

As always it is a great pleasure for me to visit with Mma Ramotswe and everyone else in her circle. I love each of these books.

In this installment, Mma Ramotswe has received a letter from an American lawyer requesting her help in finding someone. His client has died and left a gift of $3000 to a safari camp guide because of his particular kindness when she visited Botswana. The problem is that she did not remember what the camp was called, only that it had the name of an animal or bird, or the guide's name, and so it is now up to Mma Ramotswe to find him. She and her assistant, Mma Makutsi go off to a delta region of the country where they must travel by boat to the camp. On the river there is always a danger of hippos and crocodiles. The former can upset the small vessel, and the latter has been known to seize somebody right out of a boat. Happily neither horror happens, and they proceed safely to solve the case.

In addition to the problem in the case, Grace Makutsi has more personal trouble. Her fiancé has lost part of his leg in an accident. Phuti Radiphuti (silent h) - one of my favorite names in fiction - has an aunt who takes exclusive care of him after his operation and doesn't even want Mma Makutsi to visit. She isn't the most self-assured of people and it is very difficult for her to know what to do.

I know that some people really didn't like the televised version of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and I agree that it wasn't as true to the writing as I may have wished. However, I do think the casting was utterly perfect. Now when I read the books I see the characters as the actors who played them. I am particularly fond of Anika Noni Rose who played Mma Makutsi. She brought the character to life in a way I just couldn't see on the page. Because of the actor, I have become even more fond of the character, which I find amazing.

As in all the books, there is much wisdom and thought, both deep and mundane.
He knew that Mma Mateleke had a tendency to talk at great length; indeed, he could always tell when Mma Ramotswe had been to see her friend because she inevitably came back not only exhausted but also disinclined to say very much.
"Mma Mateleke has done all my talking for me today," she once said. "I cannot say anything more until tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. It has all been said."
No one is referred to as 'dead' in this series.
She used the expression that the Batswana preferred: to become late. There was human sympathy here; to be dead is to be nothing, to be finished. The expression is far too final, too disruptive of the bonds that bind us to one another, bonds that survive the demise of one person. A late father is still your father, even though he is not there; a dead father sounds as if he has nothing further to do - he is finished.
I have read some of these books in the print version, I have listened to some on unabridged audio, and now I have read one on my Kindle. It doesn't matter how I read them. The minute I begin, I am back in Botswana, the land all the characters love so well. The outside world disappears and I can see the landscape and feel the air. The word 'gentle' is sometimes overused, but it is the best adjective to describe these books. There is also a generosity of spirit, even when not every character is a good person.
Having the right approach to life was a great gift in this life. Her father, the late Obed Ramotswe, had always had the right approach to life - she was sure of that. And for a moment, as she sat there with her friend, with the late-afternoon sun slanting in through the window, she thought about how she owed her father so much. He had taught her almost everything she knew about how to lead a good life, and the lessons she had learned from him were as fresh today as they had ever been. Do not complain about your life. Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself. Be content with who you are, and do whatever you can do to bring to others such contentment, and joy, and understanding that you have managed to find yourself.
Alexander McCall Smith's words are guideposts on our paths through life.


  1. i am tempted to give these books a go after reading your review.

  2. I must admit I loved the televised version. The casting was perfect, as you said, and I so wish they would produce more episodes....

    we are in the midst of a great deluge here in Ontario, straight rain for 24 hours plus at this point...

    have a lovely weekend :)

  3. I love these books with a passion! The only thing I hate is that they are such fast reads and I always feel bereft when I finish one. I agree with you on the casting of the HBO series. Thank you for sharing -- I wish I could write like that!

    Do you know if there will be another year of the show? We discontinued our Dish and don't have HBO any more, but I would definitely get the videos. In fact, I may re-watch the ones I did see.

  4. I have yet to read these books! I have the first 3 or 4 in my stacks and even tried #1 a few years ago. I didn't get very far -- distracted by another book, probably for book club. I'd like to give them another try this fall. I know you love them, and the quotes you share have always intrigued me. So maybe this will be the year!

  5. Oh, Cait, I'm quite, quite sure you would like them.

    Niki, I did too. I hope they make another but maybe not because Anthony Minghella, the director and co-writer died. I loved seeing the locale. Rain, eh? We had just a little this time.

    Sallie, I sure hope there are more, but who knows? We don't have a satellite dish anymore either. I'm really much happier watching dvds. No ads, no noise, and I love the extras.

    Les, I don't know. You might. But you might not either. :<)

  6. To write a book, well, many books, that translate so well to screen and audio is a wonderful thing.
    I loved the books and I loved the HBO series and only hope it is continued. I found that the colors and intonations, the richness of Botswana and its people, especially the author's characters, came alive even more for me with the series. That is rare for me as the book is always better.
    Your review here makes me want to jump up and read Double Comfort . . . but, my pile is too big, so I will just a while and come back to your review to feed my urge until then.

  7. Life on the cutoff, you are so right about the television production. I just loved seeing those roads, that light, and the colors. You seem to really love the book series, and if I were you I'd read this one sooner than later. In a series where I love every single book, I think this one was my favorite.

  8. I read number 5 this summer and was reminded how wonderful this series is. I must get another one from the library, and catch up. Glad to hear they continue with the same gentle style.
    I didn't realize there was a TV series, but I don't get HBO.

  9. these are the only books of his that I haven't yet fallen in love with...but I'm going to have to!

  10. Glad to see that you're still in love with this series. I happened upon this one on my library's book sale cart and grabbed it for 50 cents!!! Can't wait to get caught up in this series!

  11. Although I love the Isobel Dalhousie books, and enjoyed the film and series, I've never actually read any of the Mma Ramotswe books. I think it's time I did.

  12. Raidergirl, I don't either. We watched on dvd. Very well done. It was so nice to see Botswana.

    Audrey, they are my favorites of all his books.

    Staci, I so love it.

    Geranium Cat, the setting, the characters, the stories are just perfect to me.

  13. This is the only series of his I have read, and treat myself to the newest one each time it appears. They are a special mediatation.

    Did you happen to hear the author on A Prairie Home Companion recently? He was utterly charming (as one might expect).

  14. I have enjoyed the books so much, that I could not help but enjoy the TV series too, although there are differences. The actress who plays Mma Makutsi is a treasure.

  15. J.G., I like that, 'special meditation.' I agree. No, I didn't hear him. I wish I had.

    Commonweeder, I love seeing the colors and the landscape of this land I've only read about.

  16. WOW! I love those words of wisdom! Thank you for sharing them!
    Catching up in the blog world,

  17. Joanne, aren't they just wonderful!


I'll answer your comments as soon as I possibly can. Please do come back if you've asked a question.
Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.