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Six degrees of separation, FROM The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency TO …

January 6, 2018

It’s a new year and I’ve committed, for the moment at least, to continuing with the Six Degrees meme which is currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). For details about the meme, please click the link on Kate’s blog-name. Meanwhile, on with the challenge. This month we start with a book that I have, in fact, read, Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – and, as always, I’ve read all the linked books too, though some before I started blogging.

Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective AgencyMost of you will know that light, crime books are not my usual fare. However, there was a time when reading the latest book from this series was something my parents, mother-in-law, husband and I did on our annual coast holiday. When those holidays ceased, somehow the impetus to read the books ceased too. While it lasted, though, it was a lot of fun to share a reading interest, and ponder the warmth and practical problem-solving of Precious Ramotswe.

Catherine McNamara, PeltFor my first link, I’m going with a book by another non-African writer setting stories there, Catherine McNamara’s Pelt and other stories (my review). McNamara is an Australian expat writer currently living, I believe, in Italy, but she also lived and worked for some time in Africa. Several stories in this collection, as the cover might suggest, are set in Africa, particularly West Africa. But they are definitely not warm and fuzzy like McCall Smith’s Botswanan set stories!

Chinua Achebe, Things fall apartAnd since we rarely visit Africa here, let’s stay there for the next link, and look at Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart (my review), a classic that I finally managed to read in 2016. It’s set in a small village in Nigeria, and deals with the impact of change in Africa – the missionaries, colonialism – by presenting a variety of reactions and behaviours. He shows western colonialism to be arrogant and oblivious to the culture being overtaken, but also sees aspects of African culture which made it vulnerable.

Marie Munkara, Every secret thingMy next link takes us from Africa to Australia, but stays with the idea of missionaries and their role in the colonialism project. The book is Marie Munkara’s Every secret thing (my review). She uses humour to explore her theme, telling stories in which the Bush Mob use every bit of ingenuity they can muster to resist the incursion into their life and culture by the Mission Mob. As with Things fall apart the power imbalance is too strong, but the Bush Mob manages nonetheless to strike some blows for its side.

Eimear McBride, A girl is a half-formed thingAt this point I had a few options for linking, including staying with the colonialism theme in Australia, and I was highly tempted. However, I suddenly realised that my previous two books had “thing” or “things” in the title, and that I’ve read another book whose title includes this word, Eimear McBride’s A girl is a half-formed thing (my review). It had to be – not only because it was an irresistible connection but because it enabled me to shift gear for this link, and thus the next one. 

Anos Irani, The parcelIf you’ve read McBride’s book, you will know it is a tough read about a young girl who feels alone and unsupported in her family, for understandable reasons – but she doesn’t deserve what happens to her. It reminded me of a book I read this year which had a similar gut-wrenching impact on me, and whose protagonist, while different, feels unsupported by her family and, increasingly, an outsider within her community. The book is Anosh Irani’s The parcel (my review) about the transgendered Madhu in Mumbai’s red-light district.

Tony Birch, Ghost riverFor my last link, I’m sticking with the idea of outsiders, and returning to an indigenous Australian writer. The book is Tony Birch’s Ghost River (my review). It tells of the friendship between two young boys, Ren and Sonny, and their involvement with a group of homeless men living by the river and about to be “dispossessed” of their spot by plans to build a freeway. These men, though, are not the only outsiders in the book. Sonny, who is from a disadvantaged background, is also an outsider. Birch demonstrates that once you are an outsider, everything is just that much harder. It’s a double whammy.

So, this month we’ve travelled from Africa to Australia, then popped over to Ireland before returning to Australia via India. Our writers, though, have been even more multicultural – two indigenous Australian writers, an Indian-born Canadian writer, an expat-Australian writer living in Italy, an Irish writer born in England, and an African writer. What a fascinating bunch, eh?

And now, have you read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency? And whether or not you have, what would you link to? 

24 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2018 11:12 am

    Wow, you really did do the merry go round in these links. So much fun. I do need to try this sometime. 🐧🐧🐧

  2. Meg permalink
    January 6, 2018 11:18 am

    I did read The No. 1 Ladies Detectives Agency and several others in the series. I also did enjoy the tv series. I liked your selections, but have not read two of them. I went to Tears of the Giraffe by McCall, then to Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story by Micahel Allin. I stayed in Paris with The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Thelma Barbery, followed by The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George; and finishing with ‘ladies’ in The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola.

  3. January 6, 2018 1:50 pm

    I have read ‘The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’, but this series doesn’t appeal to me nearly so much as some of Alexander McCall Smith’s series set in Edinburgh. My favourite is ‘The Sunday Philosophy Club’ series, featuring Isobel Dalhousie. I wonder whether any other followers of ‘Whispering Gums’ agree with me.

    • January 6, 2018 8:53 pm

      Thanks Dorothy. I’ve never read any others of his though my parents have. I know they has preferences among his work but I can’t remember which ones they liked best.

  4. Meg permalink
    January 6, 2018 2:11 pm

    I do agree with you Dorothy. I think Isobel is a ‘treasure”.

    • January 6, 2018 8:56 pm

      Thanks for responding to Dorothy Meg. Love it when conversations like that happen.

  5. January 6, 2018 2:16 pm

    I definitely liked the links from Africa by non-Africans through problems with missionaries. I must read Achebe as well as more Munkara.

  6. January 6, 2018 9:51 pm

    A very well travelled and diverse set of links!

  7. January 6, 2018 11:07 pm

    I haven’t read any of the books in your chain but will seek a couple out (driven by my Around the World in 80 Books Reading Challenge).

    A few people have mentioned that they read the No.1 Ladies series with others, and the fact that there were so many, kept them talking about the books with their friends – such was the case with my book group. It was never an assigned book but most of the people in my group had read them (except for me!) and a new book in the series always prompted discussion 🙂

    • January 7, 2018 8:35 am

      Aha yes, Kate, a few this month would work for around the world. That sounds like a fun challenge for diversifying one’s reading.

  8. January 7, 2018 8:09 am

    I love this meme, Sue, and you do it so well with really interesting and varied links. I would never have thought of a non-African writer writing with a setting in Africa. Clever!

    • January 7, 2018 8:38 am

      Haha thanks Debbie. Glad you liked that link. I love this challenge but this one took a bit more playing for me than most.

  9. January 7, 2018 4:54 pm

    This selection amply illustrates the breadth and diversity of your reading Sue. Love the link based on the word ‘things’ …..

    • January 8, 2018 6:52 am

      Thanks Karen… It might over-illustrate of course! I couldn’t resist the things when I noticed it.

  10. January 8, 2018 3:43 pm

    I haven’t read the McCall books and I don’t think I will. I do have The Parcel in my to be read pile. I hope to get to it soon. Thanks for your chain.

    • January 8, 2018 9:33 pm

      Thanks Kathryn … I look forward to seeing what you say about The Parcel. It’s an astonishing book.

  11. buriedinprint permalink
    January 10, 2018 10:03 am

    Thrilled to see that you’ve managed to squeeze in The Parcel once again. Although it does rather make me giggle (inappropriately?) to think of that having begun with a McCall-Smith mystery (I’ve only read that one as well, although I realise they are popular and entertaining).

    • January 10, 2018 2:17 pm

      You noticed Buried! It is such a moving book. Re Madhu being in the same post as Precious, all I can say is that these links move in mysterious ways!

      • buriedinprint permalink
        January 10, 2018 11:55 pm

        I said that I would read another of his novels last year, but I missed it, so your meme has reminded me to actually take that step this year.

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