I have just finished THE MIRACLE AT SPEEDY MOTORS by Alexander McCall Smith. It is book number nine concerning a ladies detective agency in Botswana. Two more books are promised by the author. People do not seem to get enough of them. And I can see why. These books simply make you feel good. They are real "feel-good" books.
The charm lies in the tone of the storytelling, the gentle humour, the loving and respectful description of the various characters. Women definitely have the upper hand at The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. They have the greater smarts and men (with their vanity and lack of insights how women work), are at a great disadvantage. The author has obviously great fun in describing how the women use this talent to their benefit. A woman friend who had started reading one of these books, refused to believe that the author was not a woman, no doubt a compliment to Mc Call Smith's phenomenal insight into the feminine psyche. The books simply have to be read and enjoyed, that's all.
Alexander Mc Call Smith was born in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe today) and was educated there and in Scotland (where he is a professor of Medical Law at the university of Edinburgh). He also spent time in Botswana as a law professor, where helped set up a law school at the University in Botswana. So he has a solid background to draw on.
He is not just a "sweet old man", who writes about his childhood in south Africa. As the chairman of the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee he is an intellectual heavyweight and I suspect this writing is welcome relaxation for him.
The inspiration for the character of "Precious Ramotswe" and her detective agency came to him when he saw a heavy set woman chase a chicken in in a yard. McCall Smith would never refer to her or the main character as fat or heavily set, but simply as "traditionally built" -- McCall Smith never uses rough or direct words. Aids is referred to as "the terrible disease".
Precious Ramotswe who "is traditionally built" stands for ordinary people; how people look when they eat, and are happy and not preoccupied with modern fashion magazines. She stands for old Botswana, for old traditions of civility, acceptance and respect, untainted by the modern world. You do not have to live in Botswana to feel the loss of "old" values, to feel not at home in the commercialized modern world. And therein lies the universality in these books.
Today people get over stressed and burned out through hectic life styles. A good medicine for stressed people is to read some of these books and drop into a lower gear of life. Millions of people around the world have begun to drink the red African (coffein free) tea that Precious Ramotswe consumes in large quantities. So, could African bush tea be the secret that makes the proprietor of The First Ladies Detective Agency so sensible and relaxed, and able to sit and do nothing, and count her blessings?
The tea tastes good and is relaxing. But this wonderful tea is not enough for people to change their lifestyles. They must drink in Precious Ramotswe's philosophy too.
And that is not attained with a simple sip.