A Sentimental Fathering Model: Alexander McCall Smith’s Vision for Nurturing Paternity in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series

  • Nicole L. Willey


Alexander McCall Smith’s books are known to millions around the world. The 44 Scotland Street series, Isabel Dalhousie series, and several others are extremely popular, but The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is the most popular, with fifteen books, as of this printing, that have sold over 25 million copies,1 and the series has been translated into more than forty languages.2 Despite, or due to, the series’ wide-spread popularity, Smith’s work has not been given much serious critical attention, and the scholarly work that has been done on Smith often centers on the detective genre. Beyond generic concerns, scholarly attention has focused on the protagonist Mma Ramotswe,3 the setting—Gabarone, Botswana—and postcolonial issues. This chapter aims to bring attention to an understudied aspect of this understudied literature: the model of fatherhood embodied in the character of Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. I argue that Matekoni models a nurturing version of fatherhood that is achieved through a hybrid of utilizing African feminist principles and adapting a nineteenth-century version of sentimental masculinity that allows this African father a wide variety of tools that create a “good” father. Matekoni begins by carrying out fairly traditional notions of fathering and gender that are not always effective or fully empowering for the father or the family unit, but as the series progresses he grows as a father, and his sentimentalist reliance on emotion, coupled with his ability to adapt and network, allows for a transformation in his fathering role.


Detective Agency Gender Behavior Good Provider Woman Writer Anchor Book 
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© Nicole L. Willey 2016

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  • Nicole L. Willey

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