Monday, 14 April 2008

Ballet shoes and Botswana

The reading group to which I belong recently read and discussed Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies detective agency' fortuitously at the same time that the film was on television. The discussion ranged between regarding the book as a "comfort" read, in which life is seen as generally good, all's right with the world sort of attitude ( which I must admit is how I regarded it when I first read it some time ago). However, for those of us for whom it was a re-read, there is a lot of reality in there, with Mma Ramtswe's views on men and how some of them treat women in Botswana. The occasional flashbacks to the loss of her infant only a few days after birth brings in a grimmer reality, as does the incident with the muti and its terrible implications. The reading group felt that the film added to their enjoyment of the book, as it brought Africa to life, and although there were differences, the film was a good stab at getting the book into a visual medium. When watching it, you didn't feel cheated, or that the director wanted to get his own message across - he wanted to tell the story the book told , in the best way he could - but then as the director was Antony Minghella, that's not so surprising.

Another recent read was Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes, a re-re-read for me, as I had read several times as a child. No doubt the ballet lessons I took for a while aged 10 or so, were inspired by my reading of this book. It didn't disappoint, and seemed to have held up well, considering it was first published seventy years ago - the preoccupation with earning money struck a very modern chord, given the current news items on the subject.

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