Thursday, January 21, 2010

An admission and some understanding

I have an admission to make, one that will win me no friends. And while usually I do not knock the books I hate here, this book is so well-loved, I think it can take it. I HATE The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. I got this book free out of a cereal box in 2003 (true story!), and have received it as a gift no less than three times since then. I read it once and found it so boring, I found it offensive, not credible as literature. And I know this will rankle many a reader now, because people love Precious Ramotswe and Alexander McCall Smith, but for the life of me, I could never undertand why.

Until now. I get it now! I still hate The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, but I think my love of Flavia de Luce and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is analogous to how other readers must feel about Precious and Number One... And not just because they're both books with colonial flavour, written by old white men in unlikely voices (whether they be those of Botswanan lady detectives, or eleven year-old English girls). I think neither book is meant to ring especially true, authenticity is not the object, that these books get by on their charm, and charming is most definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Stay tuned for a review of Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie from the perspective of this beholder. I loved that book indeed.