Monday, January 5, 2009
Afternoon Tea with Precious Ramotswe
I have always been grateful to my parents for giving me the gift of loving books. It is a habit that has provided me with great joy and comfort throughout my life. I would say the ONLY drawback to loving books is when the time comes to move them. They are pretty heavy.
My father and I discovered Alexander McCall Smith's "The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency" series a couple of years ago and became immediately hooked. The books are so well written, the characters so vivid, and the place brought so alive with every word I dare anyone to resist these books charms.
The books are set in the African country of Botswana. The author was born in the country of Zimbabwe, which borders Botswana to the north, and his familiarity with the area helps him transport us to a place that we wouldn't normally give a second thought to. His main character, Precious Ramotswe, owner of the The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency in Gabarone, acts as our eyes in Africa. We all know that nobody can describe a place better than someone who truly loves it and Precious describes her surroundings with true affection.
At times her views are a bit like looking at things through frosted glass or watching a Barbara Walter's special where everything looks wonderful and just a little bit hazy but she is such a likeable, down to earth character it is easy to forgive. She at times reveals some of the troubles that burden her small nation but she doesn't see them as center stage in the story of her country.
Precious is a private detective in the burgeoning town of Gabarone. She went into business with the money she was able to get from selling her deceased father's cattle. All of her knowledge of private detection has been arrived at by reading a "how to" book that she refers to often. But it is clear from the first book that Precious has a talent for the business. She understands people and she listens well.
Her cases range from the most mundane of cheating husbands to children stolen by witch doctors. Just when it seems like she is doing almost nothing to solve a case she manages to find the right person to talk to. Her secretary/partner is an amusing woman named Mma. Makutsi who takes great pride in her secretarial skills. The two of them in their small office are entertaining and comforting in their daily rituals of work broken up with frequent tea breaks.
Precious once again reflects her love of her country by her choice of tea. She drinks African Red bush tea. I am having a cup right now and it is hardy and satisfying. Tazo does an excellent job of recreating this tea from the original recipe. I would recommend it with any of the books in this series. With these books you can travel to a warm loved place in the company of a warm, intelligent woman. Not a bad place to go in the winter of 2009.