Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Woman Who Walked on Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith

The Woman who walked in Sunshine is book 16 in the Number Ladies Detective Agency series. for anyone who hasn't heard of these books, it's about a Batswana woman - Mma Ramotswe who opens the country's first female run detective agency with the help of an assistant - Mma Makutsi. Together they solve both big and small mysteries/problems in the lives of everyday people.

Not the type of crimes you'd find in  your typical crime novel because they don't have that gruesome shock factor. But Mma Ramotswe has such a big heart for people which is what gives this series so much depth and of course a lot of heart too.

What I absolutely love about this series is how McCall Smith manages to weave in really important issues such as domestic violence, feminism, gay rights, depression and disabilities all within this African context. Somehow the balance (or arguably inbalance) between culture and issues such as gay rights within Botswana are captured really well and dealt with delicately without them being entire plot points. Sometimes characters say and do things that are a little bit problematic but this isn't left alone and he sort of uses other characters - often Mma Ramotswe (one of my feminist heroes) to comment and correct behaviour.

I've been reading them since I was 12 and one comes out every year so there's a lot to catch up with but it's so well worth the read! .. especially if you don't normally read books set in African contexts.

The Woman who walked in Sunshine was a lot slower than the previous books, simply because Mma Ramotswe is coerced by Charlie (an assistant) and Mma Makutsi (now assistant director) into taking a holiday. Plot wise this means the book ends up being about one case - which only really gets addressed  towards the end. But it does also mean that we spend a lot of time in Mma Ramotswe's head - which is great because I love hearing her voice and rhetoric and opinions on everything.

The book also redeems Mma Makutsi who really gets on my nerves because she's just so insecure and judgemental and seems to lack people skills. When reading this however I did feel guilty for thinking that just because these are common flaws that actually I have and that's what makes her such a human and real character. And for the first time ever I started to see her as a detective as opposed to being a massive pest which is always nice. And once again the book continues to develop its characters. What is so great about a series this long is that you feel like you're growing up with these characters and they're changing and evolving and making mistakes just like normal people so it's always so nice to revisit them.

Because of the pace, I wouldn't recommend starting with this book. Any of the earlier books, perhaps between 1 - 5 are great because so many problems are being solved and you really get acquainted with everyone at the same time.

Rating: 4/5
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