Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Alexander McCall Smith and The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

Just back from a wonderful two day trip to Botswana, visiting my dear and beloved friend Precious Ramotswe, who owns the #1 Ladies Detective Agency. For her, I make an exception to the paperback book rule (buy paperbacks because hard covers can hurt you if you fall asleep and they fall over) and get on the pre-publication order list so that Amazon will send me the book as soon as it comes out.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party arrived Wednesday night. My husband was expecting a friend, and when the doorbell rang I thought “oh my, he is really early!” but it was the UPS guy, who had left a book-sized package on my doorstep. I had just finished an easy but fun book (The Map Thief by Heather Terrell) and was at odd ends as to what to read next, and this was an easy answer. As my husband drank Arabic coffee and sweet sweet Arabic tea, and ate delicate Middle Eastern treats downstairs, I got to start The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party.

You know the books. They aren’t difficult to read, but while you are reading, you are transported to another world. Precious Ramotswe’s Botswana is not a world without problems, but the solutions to the problems are often found in softer gentler ways, ways that would seem counter-intuitive in our culture, but make total sense when you are raised in Botswana. There is a value placed on peaceable interaction, and maintaining relationships, on forgiveness, and going to extra mile. It’s a sweet world, and a great escape.

As usual, there are several intertwining plot lines with ingenious and unexpected solutions. I suspect that is what keeps me glued to this series – I cannot anticipate the solutions. That, and the gentleness of her outlook, the sweetness of life in Botswana, and the dignity and integrity of McCall’s primary characters.

I don’t know how McCall manages to keep the series fresh, but he avoids the formulaic and I find each book a treat. My favorite part of this book is how Mma Potokwane manages to wangle and invitation to Mma Makutsi’s wedding:

Mma Potokwane noticed the other woman’s uncertainty. “Yes,” she continued. “There’s that problem. And then there’s another problem. Problems come in threes, I find, Mma. So the next one – Problem number two, so to speak – is the cooking of food. You know what I find, Mma, it is this: the people doing the cooking never have enough pots. They say they do, but they do not. And right at the last moment they discover that there are not enough pots, or, more likely, the pots they have are too small. A pot may be big enough to cook your meat and pap at home, just for a family, but do not imagine that it will be big enough to cook for a couple of hundred people. You need big, catering-size pots for that.”

She was now warming to her theme. “And the third problem is the food itself. You may think that you have enough for the feast, and you may be right when it comes to the meat. People usually have enough meat – often rather too much, in fact. But they forget that after their guests have eaten a lot of meat, they need something sweet, and often they have made no arrangements for that. A wedding cake? Yes, but there will only be one small piece of that for each guest – usually not enough. So people find themselves wishing that they had had the foresight to get a supply of ordinary cake for the guests to eat with their tea. And where is this cake? Not there, Mma.”

Mma Ramotswe glanced at Mma Makutsi; this was not the way to speak to a nervous bride, she thought. “I’m sure that everything will work out well,” she said reassuringly. “And if there are any problems, they will surely just be small ones – nothing to worry about.”

Mma Potokwane looked doubtful. “I hope so,” she said. “But in my experience, it never works out like that. I think it’s better to be realistic about these things.”

Mma Makutsi picked up her pencil to add something to her list. “You said something about pots, Mma. Where would I be able to get these big, catering-size pots?”

Mma Potokwane examined her fingernails. “Well, we have them at the orphan farm. Each of the house mothers has a very large pot. I’m sure that we could do something . . . “

Run to your bookstore and buy The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party!

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March 25, 2011 - Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Books, Botswana, Character, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Detective/Mystery, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Shopping, Social Issues, Work Related Issues

1 Comment »

  1. Must be an enjoyable read The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander Mccall Smith. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by “to read” list.

    Comment by mohit | April 7, 2011 | Reply


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