Mma Ramotswe beats Mrs. Dalloway

Who doesn’t know Virginia Woolf? For those who love reading or watching movies, she is definitely not an alien.

Virginia Woolf

She is known as one of the most influential authors of the century, and the fact that Nicole Kidman got the Oscar as Best Actress for her portrayal as Virginia Woolf in The Hours strengthens Woolf’s name in the history.

Nicole Kidman's receiving Oscar

The Hours itself is a movie based on a novel with the same title by Michael Cunningham, whose inspiration was taken from the book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

Since I was still in junior high school, I already knew that Virginia Woolf was a famous author. It was later reinforced when I enrolled as university student majoring in psychology. That day, at Introduction to Psychology class, my lecturer explained a sub-chapter of abnormal psychology about manic-depressive disorder or bipolar disorder that is a mood disorder in which an individual alternates between periods of depression and mania. Virginia Woolf, the lecturer told, had suffered from this kind of disorder (and lastly, she took her life away to end her misery). Therefore, my lecturer recommended us to read her works. Since then, as an intellectually-curious psychology student (obvious lie) I started my journey to find the book (whose detail is not that necessary to be revealed here). Concisely, two years later I finally got one of her books: Mrs. Dalloway.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

And guess what? After reading the first fifty pages of Mrs. Dalloway, I finally gave up! God, I had been digging many shelves at many bookshops to find the book for TWO YEARS. But when I eventually got the book, I did NOT finish it.

So why did I give up? Because the plot is confusing, lots of sudden jumps from one person’s perspective to another’s, and the structure is not systematic. It was very exhausting to read it. Frankly, I was disappointed to find the book failed to meet the thrill I had been expecting.

Just so you know, never in my life had I given up on a book. That was until I read Mrs. Dalloway. I knew that the book is one of Virginia Woolf’s masterpieces. But really, I couldn’t stand it.

I know that the way she wrote the book projects the way she thought. And probably, that is how a person who suffers from bipolar disorder thinks. But still, for me, it is confusing. Thus, I’m giving up because I’m way too exhausted to follow the thoughts of a manic-depressive author (Oh great. I am so officially not going to be a psychologist).

Okay, so when I began to complain about the internationally well-acclaimed Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, I miraculously saw the also internationally best-selling Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency arrived on the bookshelf at my workplace. I knew that his books had been hunted by lots of avid readers, and I thought that I would be sorry if I had none. So I bought it.

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

After giving up Mrs. Dalloway at page fifty, I turned to The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. And guess what? This time, I made it to the end of the book! I read it from cover to cover! Yay! I just LOVED it.

Here is one hilarious review I stole (read: quoted) from amazon, since I am too lazy to write on my own.

Precious Ramotswe is a comfortable size-22 African lady (none of your Euro/American size 6's for her, thank you very much) with a fund of mother-wit and a penchant for minding other people's business.

Having survived a disastrous, abusive marriage and the death of her infant son, she turns a small legacy from her late father, whom she adored, into "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency", the only one of its kind in Botswana, or maybe in all of Africa.

From shaky beginnings with non-paying clients and chauvinistic male attitudes ("Who ever heard of a woman detective?" demands a border policeman; "Haven't you ever heard of Agatha Christie?" Mma Ramotswe shoots back, not missing a beat), she builds up a small but solid clientele that brings her problems to solve concerning cheating husbands, wayward daughters, malingering employees trying to commit insurance fraud; and a spectacularly sinister case involving a missing eleven year old boy who may or may not have been murdered for witchcraft purposes.

Giving Mma Ramotswe quiet but ever-present moral support, while keeping her old car from falling apart, is Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who loves every inch of Mma Ramotswe's ample frame and is patiently waiting for the brick wall of her resistance to marriage to crumble, so she can make him the happiest man on earth.

Smith has written an enchanting book that is can be described as a cross between an engaging detective story and a love poem to Africa. Mma Ramotswe is as warm and as solid as the red earth of Botswana; she loves every inch of the Africa she knows and identifies with and wouldn't live anywhere else. She embodies the African traits of deep ties to family and community, concern for one's neighbors, and respect for tradition. She commands respect and she gets it. Smith has added a delightful and enduring creation to the pantheon of famous detectives in fiction. Jane Marple, move over. Or rather, make a separate space for Mma Ramotswe. She deserves a pedestal of her own.
Clearly, Mma Ramotswe beats Mrs. Dalloway.


  1. teu ngarti beg...
    make bahasa jelema geura

  2. waduh.. kumaha nya. eta ge bahasa jelema da jodh..

  3. Gw udah baca No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency juga. Setuju sama resensi yang lu colong, Beg. Paling kekurangannya, deskripsi McCall Smith tentang Botswana agak terlalu modern/maju. Mungkin karena latar ceritanya di ibukota dan Bostwana memang mengalami kemajuan pesat di bidang ekonomi. Sementara itu, epidemik AIDS dan ketidakmerataan pembangunan di negara itu kurang disebut-sebut.

  4. Haven't read both, baru baca buku Michael Cunninghamnya malah, yang "The Hours". It was great. 3 orang tapi nyambung. Tapi di situ kan Michael nyeritain Mrs Dallowaynya juga (uhuk, Meryl), apa itu dicatut dari Mrs Dalloway aslinya ya?
    Segitu rumitkah aslinya? Hmm... *ngeblacklist* Ahaha

  5. betul. emang dalloway di novel cunningham terinspirasi dari dalloway woolf..

    yah kalo gw sih cape ngikutinnya Far. siapa tau lu lebih "kuat" dan pantang menyerah untuk baca sampe akhir hehe..

    gw ada ko bukunya kalo mau pinjem.


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