Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

In this latest installment in the internationally best-selling, universally beloved series, there is considerable excitement at The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. A cobra has been found in Precious Ramotswe’s office. Then a nurse from a local medical clinic reveals that faulty blood–pressure readings are being recorded there. And Botswana has a new advice columnist, Aunty Emang, whose advice is rather curt for Mma Ramotswe’s taste.

All this means a lot of work for our heroine and her inestimable assistant, Grace Makutsi, and they are, of course, up to the challenge. But there’s trouble brewing in Mma Makutsi’s own life. When Phuti Radiphuti misses their customary dinner date, she begins to wonder if he is having second thoughts about their engagement. And while Mma Makutsi may be able to buy that fashionably narrow (and uncomfortable) pair of blue shoes, it may not buy her the happiness that Mma Ramotswe promises her she’ll find in the simpler things—in contentment with the world and enough tea to smooth over the occasional bumps in the road.

I really love this series - it's such a fantastic way to spend a pleasant few hours, lost in Botswana, sitting in the shade with a cup of bush tea.

The thing about these books is whilst things happen, they are like a series of little events as opposed to a couple of huge story arcs. Amongst the issues that are of concern to Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi this time around are a doctor who appears to be providing incorrect medical advice to his patients, a bad feeling at the wild life refuge, a blackmail scheme, Mma Ramotswe going on a diet and some very nice, but ill fitting blue shoes.

What McCall Smith is so good at is taking really small events, and making them really entertaining little episodes, that are usually extremely entertaining. They can be unusual, as in the case of the cobra which got into the office of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, or everyday, such as where Mma Ramotswe laments the skills of drivers in modern Gaborone. Whatever the case, each episode is given to us with a full measure of wit and charm, served up with a side of the heat, sounds and smells of Africa.

Very enjoyable read!

The books in this series are:

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness

Rating 4.5/5

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