Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Alexander McCall Smith at Powell's Books in Beaverton, Oregon. Smith is one of my favorite authors, and I was absolutely thrilled to meet the creator of Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi.
My husband took this picture of the crowd waiting to hear Smith speak. I'm somewhere in here.
Smith spoke for approximately thirty minute and left about thirty minutes for an audience Q & A. One of the more interesting things that he spoke about, was the television adaptation of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. He was asked if Jill Scott was what he imagined for Mma Ramotswe. He he had nothing but positive things to say about Scott and the rest of the cast, but he also mentioned that he never pictures what his characters look like when he writes them. He pictures what they wear, their voice, their personality, but not so much physical features, and that he rarely describes his character's physical details. This was an "ah-ha" moment for me. I'm not at all comparing myself to the amazing Smith, but I also rarely visualize my characters and I thought this was something failing in my imagination. I felt this sense of relief to hear Smith speak on this subject. Smith gave a very entertaining and humor filled talk and caught everyone up on his most current projects. I marvel at his ability to be so prolific and with so many different series. I'm also happy to report that he does not envision The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series ending any time soon. Or any of his other series for that matter.
After he spoke, I got in line to have my book signed. I also bought a copy for my mother-in-law for Christmas, as she is also a fan. He wrote "Happy Christmas" to her and said that I'd get daughter-in-law brownie points!
On to the book...
PLOT- In this seventeenth installment of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, titled Precious and Grace, Smith works with themes of forgiveness. The agency has to solve the mystery of a Canadian woman, returning to Botswana to find a nanny who babysat her as a child. They only have a few memories and a less than stellar photograph to work with. They also must resolve the issue of Mr. Polopetsi, who has unwittingly become involved in a pyramid scheme. And can Grace live up to her name and overcome the fact that her arch-enemy, Violet Sephotho, has been shortlisted for a "Woman of the Year" award? All of this and Precious must find a home for an injured dog that has come into her care.
LIKE- As with every book in this series, I look forward to spending time with Precious, Grace, and all of the other characters. I don't read many book series, but the charm in them, is growing to deeply care about the reoccurring characters. The characters that Smith has created, feel like old friends.
In Precious and Grace, Smith brings up the important topic of forgiveness. I think that most readers will identify with one or more of the characters, especially without how they react to the topic of forgiveness. The worst in this dilemma is Grace, who has a tough time trying to be gracious towards Violet, who has truly been a horrible person to her on more than one occasion. Smith writes a wonderful section on the importance of a hand shake, even if that person is someone you dislike. It's important to show respect. I read this the same night as the third presidential debate in America, in which Clinton and Trump did not shake hands. I wish the world had a little more of Smith wisdom in action.
DISLIKE- I love the story, but the one thing that is getting stale, now that we are in the seventeenth volume, is the rehashing of previous events and explaining the main characters. Unfortunately, this takes up a lot of space in the story and it's tedious this far into the series. It makes it so Precious and Grace, could be read independent of the series, but it's frustrating as a long time fan.
RECOMMEND- A fan of the series? Precious and Grace is a must-read. Smith continues to prove that he is an excellent storyteller.