Quotes from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Alexander McCall Smith ·  235 pages

Rating: (198.7K votes)


“You can go through life and make new friends every year - every month practically - but there was never any substitute for those friendships of childhood that survive into adult years. Those are the ones in which we are bound to one another with hoops of steel.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“every man has a map in his heart of his own country and that the heart will never allow you to forget this map. (p. 18)”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“That is the problem with governments these days. They want to do things all the time; they are always very busy thinking of what things they can do next. That is not what people want. People want to be left alone to look after their cattle.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“...how sorry she felt for white people, who couldn't do any of this (sit talking with friends and growing melons) and who were always dashing around and worrying themselves over things that were going to happen anyway. What use was it having all the money if you could never sit still or just watch your cattle, and yet they did not know it. Every so often you met a white person who understood, who realized how things really were; but these people were few and far between and the other white people often treated them with suspicion. ”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency



“I am just a tiny person in Africa, but there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Now constipation was quite a different matter...It would be dreadful for the whole world to know about troubles of that nature. She felt terribly sorry for people who suffered from constipation, and she knew that there were many who did. There were probably enough of them for a political party - with a chance of government perhaps - but what would such a party do if it was in power? Nothing, she imagined. It would try to pass legislation, but would fail." (p, 195)”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“We don't forget.... Our heads may be small, but they are as full of memories as the sky may sometimes be full of swarming bees, thousands and thousands of memories, of smells, of places, of little things that happened to us and which came back, unexpectedly, to remind us who we are.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing. That's how most people thought.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“These men were like leeches; they sucked away at the goodness of a woman's heart until it was dry and all her love had been used up. That took a long time, he knew, because women seemed to have vast reservoirs of goodness in them”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency



“If more women were in power, they wouldn't let wars break out," she said. "Women can't be bothered with all this fighting. We see war for what it is- a matter of broken bodies and crying mothers.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“There was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe -- the only lady private detective in Botwana -- brewed tea. And three mugs -- one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need?”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Women are the ones who knows what's going on,' she said quietly . 'They are the ones with eyes. Have you not heard of Agatha Christie?”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“He looked at her in the darkness, at this woman who was everything to him-mother, Africa, wisdom, understanding, good things to eat, pumpkins, chicken, the white sky across the endless, endless bush, and the giraffe that cried, giving its tears for women to daub on their baskets; O Botswana, my country, my place.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Boys, men," she said. "They're all the same. They think that this [their manhood] is something special and they're all so proud of it. They do not know how ridiculous it is.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency



“The house seemed so different at night. Everything was in its correct place, of course, but somehow the furniture seemed more angular and the pictures on the wall more one-dimensional. She remembered somebody saying that at night we are all strangers, even to ourselves, and this struck her as being true.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“We were the Bechuanaland Protectorate then, and the British ran our country, to protect us from the Boers (or that is what they said). There was a Commissioner down in Mafikeng, over the border into South Africa, and he would come up the road and speak to the chiefs. He would say: "You do this thing; you do that thing." And the chiefs all obeyed him because they knew that if they did not he would have them deposed. But some of them were clever, and while the British said "You do this," they would say "Yes, yes, sir, I will do that" and all the time, behind their backs, they did the other thing or they just pretended to do something. So for many years, nothing at all happened. It was a good system of government, because most people want nothing to happen. That is the problem with governments these days. They want to do things all the time; they are always very busy thinking of what things they can do next. That is not what people want. People want to be left alone to look after their cattle.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“There was so much suffering in Africa that it was tempting just to shrug your shoulders and walk away. But you can't do that, she thought. You just can't.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Talking about pumpkins doesn't make them grow.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill. These were its assets: a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone, and an old typewriter. Then there was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe – the only lady private detective in Botswana – brewed redbush tea. And three mugs – one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need? Detective agencies rely on human intuition and intelligence, both of which Mma Ramotswe had in abundance. No inventory would ever include those, of course.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency



“It was curious how some people had a highly developed sense of guilt, she thought, while others had none. Some people would agonise over minor slips or mistakes on their part, while others would feel quite unmoved by their own gross acts of betrayal or dishonesty.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“There are many sadnesses in the hearts of men who are far away from their countries.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“I told him that if a man is born in a dry place, then although he may dream of rain, he does not want too much, and that he will not mind the sun that beats down and down.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Lightning always strikes in the same place twice," said Mma Ramotswe. "Whatever people say to the contrary.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“It is my duty to help them solve the mysteries in their lives. That is what I am called to do.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency



“The only thing that makes me sad is that I shall be leaving Africa when I die. I love Africa, which is my mother and my father. When I am dead, I shall miss the smell of Africa”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Mma Ramotswe did not like lying, but sometimes it was necessary, particularly when faced with people who were promoted beyond their talents.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Perhaps her shoes would say something; Mma Makutsi had told her once, jokingly— and she must have been joking— told her that her shoes occasionally gave her advice. Well, perhaps they could tell her not to be so bossy. They must have witnessed it after all— shoes see everything; there are no secrets we can keep from our shoes.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“That is the problem with governments these days. They want to do things all the time; they are always very busy thinking of what things they can do next. That is not what people want. People want to be left alone to look after their cattle.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency


“Some people cannot bear news like that. They think they must live forever, and they cry and wail when they realise that their time is coming. I do not feel that, and I did not weep at that news which the doctor gave me. The only thing that makes me sad is that I shall be leaving Africa when I die.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, quote from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency



About the author

Alexander McCall Smith
Born place: in Bulawayo (formerly the British colony of Southern Rhodesia), Zimbabwe
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