I have a number of tenets – if that’s not too grand a word for it – according to which I read. These include that I don’t read series books and I don’t read crime. However, the best rules are made to be broken, aren’t they? And so, I break mine for our family holiday tradition which is to read the latest book in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. We are now behind though. We should have read The Saturday big tent wedding party (the 12th of now 13 books in the series) last September. But that annual family holiday as well as our February holiday this year were cancelled due to health reasons. We finally got away in August … I have now read the book and am about to pass it on to the next eager reader.
So, what to say? If you know the series you’ll know what it is about and may have read this one already. If you don’t know the series, then I’d say if you are looking for something warm and charming, with a touch of humour, to fill in a quiet time you could do worse than spend a few hours with Precious Ramotswe and her family and friends. Or, if you prefer to spend your reading time on different fare, watching the miniseries on DVD could be just the thing. It was an enjoyable adaptation.
I said that I don’t read crime. However, these are probably not books leapt on by aficionados of that genre. There is always a crime to investigate of course … but while the crimes in these books have, on occasion, involved violence or real danger for the victims, their resolution never depends on violence, guns, car chases and the like. Rather, Precious (and her assistant, Mma Makutsi) use common-sense, psychology, simple observation and forthrightness to determine the perpetrator. Police, courts and jails are rarely if ever invoked. The denouement, instead, usually entails natural justice and/or negotiated restitution. If only life could be managed this way …
Which brings me to McCall Smith and his philosophy. These books espouse a life based on moral and ethical behaviour, on forgiveness and humility, and on understanding where the other is coming from. It might seem (and is) a little cutesy at times, but the heart is real and the lessons seriously intended. In resolving the crime in this 12th book, Precious Ramotswe thinks:
There would be no further attacks – that was clear, and the damage had been set right by the one not responsible for it. All that was lacking was the punishment of the one responsible. But punishment often did not do what we wanted it to do …
And the one responsible … well, that would be giving it away. Suffice it to say that it’s not as simple as it might have looked at the beginning.
The rest of the book – like its predecessors – continues the story of Precious and her family. The apprentices are growing up (at last), a wedding finally occurs, the tiny white van is not totally lost – and Mrs Potokwani continues in her well-meaning but organising way.
And now onto the next holiday read …
Alexander McCall Smith
The Saturday big tent wedding party
London: Little, Brown, 2011