Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

A Little Background: I recall seeing The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on the book shelves when it first came out in 1998. I somehow passed it by. Last year I decided to pick it up at a book sale. I placed it in the trunk of my car where it stayed and rattled around for quite a while. When I finally got around to actually reading the book, and cleaning out the trunk at the same time, I literally fell in love with it and read the rest of the books. What took me so long?

Book Description: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe has never had an inclination for sports and she certainly has no interests in football. She has other things on her mind, her very old and worn little white van for example. And yet, she accepts the case of the mysterious “losingist” football team in all of Botswana. Mr. Leungo Molofololo, “Mr. Football” and one of the richest men in Gaborone has taken Mma Ramotswe into his employ to find out what is wrong with his team The Kalahari Swoopers. Once a winning team, they have lately been losing their matches. Although he has a roster of talented players, Mr. Molofololo suspects one of them is sabotaging the team.

At the same time, Mma Ramotswe has a little mystery of her own going on, namely the ominous knocking sound her decades old little white van has been making. Being traditionally built, Mma Ramotswe would be the first to admit that uneven weight distribution may have something to do with the van’s difficulties. But more than that she feels it has to do with some fundamental sickness deep in the engine itself, the tiny white van was sick at heart.

Whilst pondering these weighty issues, Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, Grace Makutsi is dealing with troubling matters of her own. Her fiancé, Mr. Phuti Radiphuti, has unwittingly hired a new employee, Grace’s arch nemesis at the Botswana Secretarial College. V is for Viper or Violet Sephotho; Viper is an adept description of Ms. Sephotho. After just a few days, the glamorous Violet has become the top saleswoman at the Double Comfort Furniture Shop. Grace is concerned, and rightly so, that Violet has her devious sights set on her unassuming fiancé. But what to do?

My Take: Mma Ramotswe, and the other characters inhabiting the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, seem so real to me and the author writes with such reverence of his homeland. To read this book and the series is to be transported to a different way of life, it’s foreign and yet very familiar. I believe, in fact, that it is us, the western world before we lost track of practicing every day kindness and decency. It’s about family about being stewards of the land, and definitely a simpler way of life before technology grabbed a hold of it. I love this series, it has heart and reading them makes me smile.

About the Author:

Alexander McCall Smith is also the author of the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

You can Twitter and Facebook with the author if you are so inclined!

The author's thoughts on the HBO series

A clip from The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

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