The #1 Ladies Detective Agency - Apples to Oranges
Finding out that a beloved novel is going to be made into a movie or television show comes with a roller coaster ride of emotions. There is an initial wave of euphoria in the knowing that the author’s written words will be shared visually so you can experience their story in a brand new way. Suddenly your stomach gets queasy with doubts that that the production team won’t do your novel justice. Then you see the final product. If you hate it, you blast I told you so posts all over social media. If it’s amazing, a new legion of fans jump onboard the fan train and shout for more.
At some point, novel fans begin staking their territory. They get highly enraged when the show diverts from the novel, leaves out a vital scene, or casts an actor that doesn’t fit the character’s description. These novel fans are passionate about keeping the story’s core integrity intact because the storyline and characters have been in their hearts for years. If you don’t believe me, ask a Game of Thrones book fan for their opinion on what is happening with Sansa Stark’s character on the HBO series. Ask them and then duck.
Since so many novels are being adapted into plays, shows, and movies, this monthly column is here to explore whether or not it should have just stayed on the bookshelves or if it was amplified on the big screen. To begin this column, we will be discussing my all-time favorite book series, the #1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. This amazing man writes about a traditionally built Botswana woman named Precious Ramotswe who likes to enjoy a fresh pot of bush tea before a long day of solving problems for her clients. Readers are enthralled with the cast of characters, the foreign situations, and how Alexander brings them all to life with such an endearing writing style.
Saying that I’m a fan is an understatement. My social circle can rate their friendship with me on whether or not I have suggested to them that they should read the #1 Ladies Detective Agency. I even keep a copy of the 1st book in the series at my work desk, in case the conversation comes up. Would you like some coffee, tea, or the book that will change your life?
In 2008 when HBO announced that they would be bringing Precious’ adventures to the small screen, I had to be first one to know all the details. They had four major boxes checked:
Alexander McCall Smith: He supported the show and was even a staff writer.
Jill Scott: The Casting Director gets an A+ for hiring this jazz singer to play Precious.
Location, Location, Location: It was actually filmed in Botswana.
Anthony Minghella (Director of the English Patient): He was attached to the project as the Executive Producer and Director.
They had the right people at the right location and with the support of the author. What else could a fan girl want?
So in the end, which version did I think was better? Drum Roll Please… the Books!
This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.
I can boil down what I thought was wrong with the entire TV series into one word: Note.
In the books, Precious survived a physically abusive relationship with her ex-husband, Note Makoti, which was told to the audience as part of her backstory. He was the part of her past that she overcame and it made her more sympathetic to the struggles of her clients but it didn’t define who she was, which made her all the more endearing to readers. In the TV series, he was an active character and as the season progressed, his menacing presence was becoming a major storyline. Writers can recognize that Note was used as a device for Precious’ internal conflict in the books but he was becoming an external conflict on the show. This was a major problem because the delicate core of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency is the all-around sweetness of the characters and storylines set in a part of the world that usually gets bad press. I wondered how they would translate Alexander’s unique writing voice to the small screen. Apparently they went the route of adding more conflict, more Note and they lost their audience.
The TV Show only lasted a season and the DVDs are in my collection but the books are displayed in my living room, just in case I have visitors who might want to read a book that will change their lives.
Next month we will be discussing Diana Gabaldon’s wildly successful Outlander series. It’s time for you to cast your opinion.
Columnist: Jessie lives in Oregon and writes to avoid the rain. She only feels compelled to kill her characters when she starts a new diet and if she hates the ending of a TV episode she’ll rewrite it to give everyone a happily ever after. Currently Jessie is an unpublished author but she works tirelessly to removed two letters – un – from that word.
Column book and movie tape drawn by Evangeline Owen