Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
This is the 12th volume in an extremely popular series...and is available here in Canada as of today. I've read them all and enjoy McCall Smith's writing greatly. In this volume, Grace Makutsi -- the secretary and assistant detective at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, for whom I have a soft spot -- is finally getting married to her gentle suitor, Phuti Radiphuti.
There's nothing really new in this book; the mystery is slight, more concerned with human behaviour and relationships than with anything truly mysterious. Grace Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe drink tea and discuss life in their office, with Mma Ramotswe offering some pre-wedding husband management advice. Apprentice mechanic Charlie is as irritating as ever, but gets a big scare when he is told he is the father of twins -- is it enough to turn his life around? We hope so but it is not quite certain. Charlie has always been an irresponsible kind of fellow, but McCall Smith seems to treat him quite leniently, with some fondness. There we must agree to disagree, as I am more of the opinion held by Mma Makutsi: Charlie is an annoying young man who must be shown the error of his ways!
But the charm is still there, and the landscape is strongly evoked. The people of Botswana have become more nuanced as the series has grown; there are nasty people and even the good ones are not above some finagling to prevent an unwanted situation (ie: Mma Makutsi and Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphanage, join forces to stop Grace's archnemeis Violet Sepotho from running in a local election). I've heard a few rumblings that this might be the last book in this series, and if so, McCall Smith has nicely tied up all the loose ends, with relationships mended, both Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi happily married, and the future of the detective agency assured. The final scene, that of Mma Makutsi's wedding, is delightful, full of high spirits and beauty. If this is indeed the end, it is a high note to finish on. Of course, I fervently hope that it isn't the end, as I've come to enjoy spending time with these characters and to love Botswana itself through his presentation of the traditions, the beautiful landscape and the people.
Once again, a lovely read, full of pithy words and gentle reminders of the need for kindness and understanding for all.