About the Book
Mma Ramotswe is happily married to Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, but her work seems more hectic than ever. Among the raft of cases coming the way of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency are blackmail, witchcraft and theft, all calling for the wisdom of a traditionally built detective.
It’s enough to make her wonder what the secret of happiness is, and whether she is right to find it in small things such as a pair of blue shoes, a slice of cake, or a red sunset over Kalahari.
Format: Paperback (250 pages) Publisher: Abacus
Publication date: 13th March 2007 Genre: Crime
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Blue Shoes and Happiness is the seventh book in the author’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I was an avid reader of the series when it began but somehow other books got in the way and I’m now way behind as the author has just published book twenty-two in the series and there is another one on the way in 2022! Although for sheer enjoyment ideally you’d want to read from the beginning, I think it’s possible to come to the series at any point as the author is skilled at unobtrusively incorporating background details about the characters and previous events.
For my part, it was a complete delight to be reunited with the lovely main characters: the ‘traditionally built’ Mma Ramotswe, her gentle husband Mr. J. L. B. Maketoni (only Mma Ramotswe knows what those initials stand for) and Mma Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, whose love of shoes gives the book its title.
Mma Ramotswe’s down-to-earth wisdom and pithy observations contribute to the book’s gentle humour. Her keen eye for detail and ability to get people to talk are a key part of her success as a private detective, along with the guidance to be found in her cherished reference book, The Principles of Detection by Clovis Anderson. Frequent cups of her favourite bush tea also help in solving the cases that come to her. As Mma Ramotswe observes, ‘Most problems could be diminished by the drinking of tea and the thinking through of things that could be done while tea was being drunk. And even if that did not solve problems, at least it could put them off for a little while, which we sometimes needed to do, we really did’.
One of the things that has endeared so many people to the series, including me, is the way in which the author’s love and admiration for Botswana – the country and its people – shines through the stories. Often it’s through family links that Mma Ramtoswe makes her breakthroughs. As described in the book, the ‘Botswana way’ is built on ‘ties of kinship, no matter how attentuated by distance or time, [that] linked one person to another, weaving across the country a human blanket of love and community. And in the fibres of that blanket there were threads of obligation that meant that one could not ignore the claims of others’. I think we could all do with a human blanket of love and community in present times.
Blue Shoes and Happiness is the sort of book that leaves you with a warm feeling at the end. ‘Happiness was an elusive thing. It had something to do with having beautiful shoes, sometimes; but it was about so much else. About a country. About a people.’ Does Mma Ramotswe solve the raft of cases she’s faced with in the book? Of course she does, and in ways that only she can.
In three words: Charming, humorous, uplifting
Try something similar: Madam Tulip by David Ahern
About the Author
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of over one hundred books on a wide array of subjects, including the award-winning The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. He is also the author of the Isabel Dalhousie novels and the world’s longest-running serial novel, 44 Scotland Street. His books have been translated into forty-six languages.
Alexander McCall Smith is Professor Emeritus of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and holds honorary doctorates from thirteen universities. (Photo: Goodreads author page)