“Life happens, she thought; whatever we do, life just happens.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, The Colours of all the Cattle
And… he’s done it again! One of my favourite living authors, Alexander McCall Smith has conjured up yet another Precious Ramotswe story. I’m delighted every time a new novel in this series comes out, and I’ve never been even remotely close to disappointment after reading one. How does he do it? I wonder… How does a man in Scotland write so convincingly about a woman in Botswana!? Am I the only one who has to tell myself (time and again) that if I were to take a trip to Gabarone, I would be faced with the cruel reality that no such business exists as the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency?
This morning I was reading in Carol Shields’ Startle and Illuminate, a book on writing. I came across this comment, which is absolutely true of this series:
“… radical regionalism often produces a universal response.”
I’ve always wanted to travel to Africa, ever since I first saw the sunrise in Disney’s Lion King as an idealistic 16 year-old. Still, I am not the only one for whom McCall Smith has put Botswana on the map. Apart from that, it’s delicious to feel so immersed in a far-off place; the culture is palpable in these lovely books.
Now consider another piece of Carol Shields’ advice, this one on appropriation of voice; we must be sure to convey others’ experiences with authenticity and respect.
This, I am convinced, is the key to Alexander McCall Smith’s brilliantly successful star character, Precious Ramotswe.
Charming as these novels are, the reason I keep coming back for more is not just for the light humour, the little mysteries, or the trip to exotic Africa; but because what’s written in them matters. It simply does. The kind of ethics that just make good sense, which are woven like a golden thread throughout, catching the light occasionally, but never detracting attention from the people and their stories. That’s the magnet for me.
“But please be careful—and never, never think that you are justified in doing something wrong just because you are trying to do something right.”
Spoken with her unfailing kindness, and accompanied by generous action, who could resist such wise counsel?
Which books do you return to for renewed perspective?
Thank you for reading with me 🙂