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Tears of the Giraffe: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (2)

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Reading Group Guide

1. What distinguishes Tears of the Giraffe from most other mysteries? What qualities make it such a charming and affirmative book? In what ways does Mma Ramotswe differ from such archetypal detectives as Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe?

2. Mrs. Curtain says that when she first came to Africa, she had “the usual ideas about it—a hotchpotch of images of big game and savannah and Kilimanjaro rising out of the cloud . . . famines and civil wars and potbellied, half-naked children staring at the camera, sunk in hopelessness” [p. 27]. How does her experience of Africa alter these ideas? Why does she feel that “everything about my own country seemed so shoddy and superficial when held up against what I saw in Africa” [p. 29]? What deeper and truer understanding of Africa does the novel itself offer readers who might share Mrs. Curtains preconceptions?

3. Mma Ramotswe knows that Mrs. Curtains case—finding out what happened to her son ten years ago—is what is referred to in The Principles of Private Detection as “a stale enquiry” [p. 61]. Why does she accept the case, in spite of that? What special empathy does she feel for Mrs. Curtain?

4. When Mr J.L.B. Matekoni wonders why his apprentice mechanics take everything for granted, a friend explains, “Young people these days cannot show enthusiasm. . . . Its not considered smart to be enthusiastic” [pp. 80-81]. Is this an accurate observation? Where else does the novel demonstrate this kind of understanding of human behavior?

5. Why does Mr J.L.B. Matekoni allow himself to be talked into adopting the orphans? What specific memory enables him to open his heart to them? What does this act say about his character?

6. Mma Ramotswe thinks that “the Americans were very clever; they sent rockets into space and invented machines which could think more quickly than any human being alive, but all this cleverness could also make them blind” [p. 113]. What is it that she thinks Americans are blind to? Is she right? How do her own values differ from those of mainstream America?

7. Tears of the Giraffe poses some difficult moral dilemmas for Mma Ramotswe. Should one always tell the truth, or is lying sometimes the better choice? Does a moral end justify immoral means? Which cases raise these questions? How do Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi answer them?

8. When Mma Ramotswe prepares her accounts for the end of the financial year, she finds that “she had not made a lot of money, but she had not made a loss, and she had been happy and entertained. That counted for infinitely more than a vigorously healthy balance sheet. In fact, she thought, annual accounts should include an item specifically headed Happiness, alongside expenses and receipts and the like. That figure in her accounts would be a very large one, she thought” [p. 225]. What enables Mma Ramotswe to live happily? How would most American CEOs and CFOs respond to the accounting innovation she suggests in the above passage?

9. How is Mma Ramotswe able to solve the mystery of Mrs. Curtains sons disappearance? What role does her intuition play in figuring out what happened to him? Why is this information so important for Mrs. Curtain?

10. When Mma Potokwane tells Mr J.L.B. Matekoni that their pump makes a noise, “as if it is in pain,” he replies that “engines do feel pain. . . . They tell us of their pain by making a noise” [p. 77]. Later, he tells his apprentice, “you cannot force metal. . . . If you force metal, it fights back” [p. 198]. What do these statements reveal about Mr J.L.B. Matekonis character? About his approach to being a mechanic? Are his assertions merely fanciful or do they reveal some deeper truth about the relationship between the human and the inanimate world?

11. One of Mma Makutsis classmates at the Botswana Secretarial College tells her that “men choose women for jobs on the basis of their looks. They choose the beautiful ones and give them jobs. To the others, they say: We are very sorry. All the jobs have gone” [p. 109]. In what ways does Tears of the Giraffe suggest ways around the stifling roles dictated by “brute biology”? What examples does it provide of girls and women overcoming the restrictions placed on them and assuming traditionally male roles?

12. The housemother of the orphanage explains to Motholeli, “We must look after other people. . . . Other people are our brothers and sisters. If they are unhappy, then we are unhappy. If they are hungry, then we are hungry” [p. 124]. In what ways does the novel demonstrate this ethic in action? How is this way of relating to other people different from the starker examples of American individualism?

13. In what ways are Mr J.L.B. Matekoni and Mma Ramotswe well-suited to each other? How do they treat each other in the novel? How do they complement each other?

14. In what ways is Tears of the Giraffe as much about family relationships as it is about solving crimes? How does the novel provide emotionally satisfying resolutions to the parental pain that both Mrs. Curtain and Mma Ramotswe have suffered?

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400077670
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - Series
Author:
Smith, Alexander McCall
Author:
McCall Smith, R. A.
Author:
McCall Smith, Alexander
Author:
Alexander McCall Smith
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Subject:
Botswana
Subject:
Fiction-Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Subject:
Fiction-Mystery & Detective - Series
Subject:
Fiction : Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Subject:
Fiction : Mystery & Detective - Series
Subject:
Fiction : Mystery & Detective - General
Subject:
Ramotswe, Precious
Subject:
Women private investigators
Subject:
Mystery fiction
Subject:
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Subject:
Ramotswe, Precious (Fictitious character)
Subject:
Mystery-A to Z
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Publication Date:
2000
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Pages:
227
Age Level:
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

Tears of the Giraffe: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (2)
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 227 pages Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group - English 9781400077670 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Cynics might not buy McCall Smith's fulsome praise of old African ways and the 'traditionally built' Precious Ramotswe, but this is the most entertaining read of the year."
"Synopsis" by , The continuing story of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency finds our wily heroine searching for a young man who disappeared into the African plains many years ago. Along the way she becomes engaged to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, a good man who passes the most difficult test (her father would like him), and promotes her talented secretary, who got 97 percent on her typing final, to Assistant Detective. She also finds herself suddenly and unexpectedly the mother of two small children. Tears of the Giraffe is the wonderfully entertaining continuation of the story of Botswana's first lady detective.
"Synopsis" by , The continuing story of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency — starring Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's first lady detective — finds our wily heroine searching for a young man who disappeared into the African plains many years ago.
"Synopsis" by , Alexander McCall Smith is a professor of medical law at Edinburgh University. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is the
"Synopsis" by , The story of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency continues as irrepressible sleuth Precious Ramotswe searches for a young man who vanished many years ago on the African plains, while dealing with her engagement to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, sudden and unexpected motherhood, and her recently promoted new assistant. Reprint. 12,500 first printing.
"Synopsis" by , CHAPTER ONE

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's House

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, found it difficult to believe that Mma Ramotswe, the accomplished founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, had agreed to marry him. It was at the second time of asking; the first posing of the question, which had required immense courage on his part, had brought forth a refusal--gentle, and regretful--but a refusal nonetheless. After that, he had assumed that Mma Ramotswe would never remarry; that her brief and disastrous marriage to Note Mokoti, trumpeter and jazz aficionado, had persuaded her that marriage was nothing but a recipe for sorrow and suffering. After all, she was an independent-minded woman, with a business to run, and a comfortable house of her own in Zebra Drive. Why, he wondered, should a woman like that take on a man, when a man could prove to be difficult to manage once vows were exchanged and he had settled himself in her house? No, if he were in Mma Ramotswe's shoes, then he might well decline an offer of marriage, even from somebody as eminently reasonable and respectable as himself.

But then, on that noumenal evening, sitting with him on her verandah after he had spent the afternoon fixing her tiny white van, she had said yes. And she had given this answer in such a simple, unambiguously kind way, that he had been confirmed in his belief that she was one of the very best women in Botswana. That evening, when he returned home to his house near the old Defence Force Club, he had reflected on the enormity of his good fortune. Here he was, in his mid-forties, a man who had until that point been unable to find a suitable wife, now blessed with the hand of the one woman whom he admired more than any other. Such remarkable good fortune was almost inconceivable, and he wondered whether he would suddenly wake up from the delicious dream into which he seemed to have wandered.

Yet it was true. The next morning, when he turned on his bedside radio to hear the familiar sound of cattle bells with which Radio Botswana prefaced its morning broadcast, he realised that it had indeed happened and that unless she had changed her mind overnight, he was a man engaged to be married.

He looked at his watch. It was six o'clock, and the first light of the day was on the thorn tree outside his bedroom window. Smoke from morning fires, the fine wood smoke that sharpened the appetite, would soon be in the air, and he would hear the sound of people on the paths that criss-crossed the bush near his house; shouts of children on their way to school; men going sleepy-eyed to their work in the town; women calling out to one another; Africa waking up and starting the day. People arose early, but it would be best to wait an hour or so before he telephoned Mma Ramotswe, which would give her time to get up and make her morning cup of bush tea. Once she had done that, he knew that she liked to sit outside for half an hour or so and watch the birds on her patch of grass. There were hoopoes, with their black and white stripes, pecking at insects like little mechanical toys, and the strutting ring-neck doves, engaged in their constant wooing. Mma Ramotswe liked birds, and perhaps, if she were interested, he could build her an aviary. They could breed doves, maybe, or even, as some people did, something bigger, such as buzzards, though what they would do with buzzards once they had bred them was not c

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