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How do you pronounce "Mma"?

When I first read the books, I went looking for an answer to that question and I found a page where Mma Ramotswe was answering questions. That was a popular question. It's pronounced just the way it looks with an elongated m. Men are addresses as Rra.


What kinds of mysteries does Mma Ramotswe detect? Are these detective stories in anything like the PD James sense?
Just the bits you quoted make me want to read them!

How can one *not* be tempted to read a book called "Portuguese Irregular Verbs?" I've been on the fence over reading McCall Smith for a long time, but I think you've nudged me over, Janet.

I have owned the book pictured above since it came out but for some reason have not yet read it, Janet. It sounds like everything people were saying about it when it was published is true. I will try to read it relatively soon. Wonderful post; thank you.

Janet, the 'Portuguese Irregular Verbs' stuff sounds a bit like Helprin when he's being whimsical. I love that kind of thing, and shall add it to my list!

Thanks, everyone.

Mma Ramotswe solves the sort of mysteries that private detectives solve: marital infidelity, petty thefts and frauds. The books are more about the lives of the re-occurring characters; her casess are small parts of the novels. The story might be as much about something that is going on with the mechanics at Tlokweng Speedy motors, or a financial crisis at the orphanage, or the past lives of one of the characters.


The remarkable thing is that in so many hands the material from the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series would be miserabilist (infidelities, frauds, petty feuds, disease, medical malpractice, child exploitation, wife beating, and on and on), but without making light of it Alexander McCall Smith puts it in the perspective of cheerful resilience and tactful reticence that actually characterise so much of human life. I've seen a couple of very dense reviewers say that he ignores the dark side of life, but I think these are the sort of people that Flannery O'Connor said you have to "draw large and startling figures" for, because it's unmissably there, it just doesn't drown out the rest.

"miserabilist"--I like that. Certainly describes a certain and rather large school.

If I'm not mistaken, both Smith himself and Theodore Dalrymple have mentioned Botswana in articles in The New Criterion, and I can't remember which of them, maybe both, said it, but at least one of them described it as a very engaging place in spite of its problems.

I think I'll read the Mma Ramotswe book I have next. It will no doubt be an interesting contrast to Thomas Mann.


How anyone can say that he ignores the dark side of life is beyond me. In fact, when I was thinking back through the books, it surprised me how much of that there was. It's just as you say though, cheerful resistance wins the day.

I started to include the paragraph about Obed Ramotswe's death because it's very sad, but also humorous, and it defines Mma's character pretty well. I'll put it in a comment when I get home.


Loved the Precious Ramotswe books also. Did not enjoy the ones set in Scotland. Will have to try some of the others. Thank you for posting this!

Thanks, Kay.


Lovely post, Janet.

I've read only the first of the Mma Ramotswe books. Don't know how I've resisted the others in the series, especially with the great titles they have -- I especially like these:
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Full Cupboard of Life
In The Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

And not to forget the cookbook inspired by the series -- Mma Ramotswe's Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built

Yes, the names are great.


Janet saves the day!

I hope I'm setting a good example.


I read two of the Botswana novels and two of the Edinburgh novels. They are very funny and enjoyable.

Well, I got two of the books that I haven't read from the library today to read on vacation, and the great thing is that while I'm reading them, I won't be thinking about how I have to write about them.


Quite a relief, I'm sure. Reading Doctor Faustus, I'm glad somebody's already written about Thomas Mann.

Ordered The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom online last night. My local used bookstore had a lot of McCall titles but not that one, unfortunately.

Mine shipped yesterday. They tell me it will arrive by Oct. 5! I guess it is coming by dogsled.


I read Portuguese Irregular Verbs on my way to and over my first evening at the Medieval Studies conference in Kalamazoo. It was hilarious.

The fact that you did that at the Medieval Studies conference in Kalamazoo is hilarious!

Sally's husband was laughing pretty hard just at the Professor's name.


AT the library yesterday I found a modern retelling of Emma by McCall Smith! I've only read a few pages, but so far so good.

I have that on order at the library.


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