Monday, January 30, 2012

what I'm reading: The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

One of my favourite authors is Alexander McCall Smith. His books are amongst the few that I put on hold as soon as they appear in the library. He writes three series, and I love them all: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, The Sunday Philosophy Club, and 44 Scotland Street. Tell me which is your favourite!

Alexander McCall Smith writes with a wry sense of humour, an eye for people and their peculiarities, a warmhearted wisdom, and a sense of place, whether he's describing Botswana or Edinburgh. His books are not a hard read, more a gentle meander. They suit me just fine!

Here's a description of heaven, and the heavens, from the latest book in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Not a Christian vision of heaven, but beautiful nonetheless.

It was a good time for sitting together, Mma Ramotswer felt, and it was not necessary to say anything. That evening, the sky was all but white with stars, filled with acres and acres of constellations, right down to the horizon. She had learned the names of some of these clusters when she was younger, but had forgotten most of them now, apart from the Southern Cross, which could be seen hanging over the sky towards Lobatse, a pointer to the distant Cape and its cold waters. And the Milky Way was there too - she had always been able to identify that, like a swirl of milk in an ocean of dark tea. As a girl she had imagined the Milky Way was the curtain of heaven, a notion she had been sorry to abandon as she had grown up. But she would not abandon a belief in heaven itself, wherever that might be, because she felt that if she gave that up then there would be very little left. Heaven may not turn out to be the place of her imagining, she conceded - the place envisaged in the old Botswana stories, a place inhabited by gentle white cattle, with sweet breath - but it would surely be something not too unlike that, at least in the way it felt; a place where late people would be given all that they had lacked on this earth - those who had had nothing would find they had everything the human heart could desire.

From Alexander McCall Smith The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party pages 135-136.


Deb L said...

I'm definitely a fan of the Ladies Detective Agency series. I tried the Sunday Philosophy club. I did enjoy the weaving of various philosophers and philosophical ideas, but I just couldn't relate to the morals of the characters. I didn't "bond" with any of them. And I didn't like his ending: the main character doesn't report an accidental murder to the police because she feels the guilt the murderer is suffering is enough punishment. So I haven't bothered reading any of his other stuff. But I love the gentle escape that the L.D. Agency series offers! Have you read any of his kids' books? Our children have three of the Akimbo series and have really enjoyed them.

Jean said...

Hi Deb! Yes, I don't read them for realism! :) Just for the gentle meander through character and place...

Yes, we have read the Akimbo books, but my son Thomas was too young for them then. Must try them again - they'd be right up his alley. Thanks for the reminder!

Catherine said...

Hi Jean,
I'm a big fan too. I love the Scotland St series because they make me laugh. His books are so jolly relaxing, and I too love the sense of place and the insightful reflections on people's characters. Like Deb, I gave up on the Sunday Philosophy Club ones in favour of some of the others.
Thanks for sharing that quote about 'heaven' - it made me smile - esp the bit about 'gentle white cattle with sweet breath' - very evocative! I'll have to put that one on hold, too.

Jean said...

Hi Catherine,

Yes, Scotland Street is my favourite series too. I love Bertie!!

But I do enjoy the Sunday Afternoon ones too. I like the (very undemanding) philosophical reflections.

Love Jean.