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Fiction

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series is the only cosy mysteries that I read every single book in it. Many who has read it knows the appeal of gentle wisdom and the appeal of idyllic everyday life in Botswana which is unsullied by the influence of the modern world. Alexander McCall Smith publishes a new one every year, I would expect another one this new year but I’m catching up on reading the one that is published last year!

The grey-green bush stretched out, a landscape of struggling shrubs, leaves shrivelled and dusty, filling in space between the endless forest of thorn trees. The more established acacia provided some cover from the sun, casting pools of shade under which, here and there, cattle clustered, their tails twitching listlessly against the flies. The prevailing note was one of somnolence and stasis, a note taken up and orchestrated by hidden choirs of screeching cicadas: this was a Botswana hat had existed since the days when cattle-herding peoples first came to this land; this was a Botswana that was a 100 years from the world of Gaborone, from the world of cars, of white buildings, of commerce and diamonds.

Such description and ambience was the reason I kept returning to the series….

So! What happens this time for Mma Ramotswe?

Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, Mma Makutsi is getting married to the furniture shop owner Phuti Radiphuti. As the countdown to the wedding begins, Mma Makutsi is shopping for a pair of new shoes to go with her bridal gown but plans of Violet Sephotho, the vicious, man-eater secretarial classmate of Mma Makutsi is running for local election. This will be a disaster for the nation. Then sightings of Mma Ramotswe’s old white van has unsettled Mma Ramotswe who still harbours her love to the van and was devastated since the day she was told that her white van is beyond repair. Is it real? or is it a ghost? ……. Meanwhile, apprentice mechanic Charlie, who has his head on women rather than cars, seems to avoid his responsibilities of twin babies that he sired.

The bigger problem was that Mma Ramotswe is investigating a cattle attack on a Southern cattle-post. The cattle’s legs were cut-off one night and the owner enlisted Mma Ramotswe’s help to solve the case. The outcome turns out to be a tricky one as fending for the weak and the poor, Mma Ramotswe couldn’t turn the perpetrator in. However, according to Mma Ramotswe’s Clive Anderson investigation book, it is said “Never lie to the client.” What is she to do?

But as friends and family gather under the starry African night skies, it turns out that even the most perplexing apparitions and the most shocking of crimes may yield to rational explanation and they were all solved with Mma Ramotswe’s inimitable way with love, intuition, accompanied by her indispensable redbush tea.

I’m not sure why this is but I find this book refreshing in the midst of the more darker or serious books that I have read recently. Perhaps this time I have paid attention to every word and it seems the gentle wisdom and the beautiful writings jumped out from the pages more for this one compared to the rest in the series. Here are some samples:

When Mma Makutsi’s Uncle contemplates a dowry for her wedding, Mma Makutsi tried to explain…

“You cannot ask for that, Uncle,’ she said.

‘Why not? They are rich. Rich people have many cattle, Everybody knows that. And where do they get all that money? From other people – from ordinary epople. So there is nothing wrong in getting some of it back.’

She had defended the Radiphuti Family. ‘They are rich because they have worked hard. That store of theirs started very small, they have built it up through hard work.’

He appeared not to hear. ‘They can still give some of the money back.’

‘It’s their money, Uncle. They did not steal it. They earned it.’ – page 49

A conversation that makes me think if we see rich people got so rich at the ordinary people’s expense? or do we see them got so rich because they have worked hard? I tend to think latter but many would disagree with me. Food for thought.

Mma Ramotswe said each of us needed to find just the right way to take our mind off our problems, and it did not matter what that was – a drive in the country, an expedition to a shoe shop, a quiet cup of tea under a cloudless sky; each of us had something that made it easier to continue in a world that sometimes, just sometimes, was not as we might wish it to be. – page 62

She looked up at the sky. That was the real witness to human cruelty, to all our manifold sorrows – the sky. – page 89

and my favourite:

As a girl she had imagined the Milky Way was the curtain of heaven, a notion she had been sorry to abandon as she had grown up. But she would not abandon a belief in heaven itself, wherever that might be, because she felt that if she gave that up then there would be very little left. Heaven may not turn out to be the place of her imagining, she conceded – the place envisages in the old Botswana stories, a place inhabited by gentle white cattle, with sweet breath – but it would surely be something not too unlike that, at least in the way it felt; a place where late people would be given all that they had lacked on this earth – a place of love for those who had not been loved, a place where those who had had nothing would find they had everything the human heard could desire. – page 136

It is a shame that not many people write books like this anymore. In an Aesop fables sort of way, set against a place less complicated and written in a humorous and gentle way. It is the main reason that I follow the series. I know Alexander McCall Smith wrote many other books and series and I’m wondering if I should give it a go, if so, which one? Any suggestion?

Rating: 

Hardback. Publisher:  Little Brown 2010; Length: 248 pages; Setting: Botswana.  Source: Library copy. Finished reading at: 30th January 2012.

Reviews I have written for books in the series:

Double Comfort Safari Club

Tea Time For The Traditionally Built

and many others are read before I started this blog.

Other views:

Paradise Mysteries: I’m sure the fact that I enjoy this series so much is related to the fact that I’ve been reading them since the first was published back in 1998. They’ve all been good reads, cozies, and there has been story-line development. So, if you’ve never tried them, hunt down the first THE NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY and begin your journey. My rating: 4.5

Tales Untangled: I believe the overwhelming success of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series set in Botswana, Africa is the simplicity of life paired with profound truths.

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

6 thoughts on “The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

  1. Love the No 1 Ladies Detectives Agency series. Tried reading some from his Sunday Philosophy Club series, but Isabel Dalhousie didn’t come alive as much as Mma Ramotswe did, maybe it’s just me. Will be starting on his 44 Scotland Street series next though. Shall try to share some thoughts 🙂

    Posted by Joanna | February 4, 2012, 6:20 am
    • Joanna,
      Thanks for letting me know. Mma Ramotswe is really this larger than life kind soul of a big woman! I look forward to hear your thoughts Joanna.
      I think Alexander McCall Smith is very prolific. Not sure this works for or against his reputation as a writer. Published a few books and everyone think each publication is a gem, publish every year and some people may think you have published without a thought and dismiss it as frivolous writing!

      Posted by JoV | February 4, 2012, 7:56 pm
  2. This is a series of books I always look at but have yet to actually pick up. At the moment I am still getting my fix of cosy crime from Agatha Raisin 🙂

    Posted by jessicabookworm | February 5, 2012, 10:55 am
  3. There is something comforting about these I read a couple a few years ago when they were given away with the times and like them ,something of a old fashion world about these tales ,all the best stu

    Posted by stujallen | February 6, 2012, 10:27 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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