Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book Review: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Your faithful blogger is also a constant reader. Big surprise as she works in a library, right?
I have another book review for you today, of yet another title you can find in our Leisure Reading section!

Alexander McCall Smith’s Tea Time for the Traditionally Built reminds me of a nice tea break in the middle of the day. Like the other books in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, it is cozy, warm and relaxing, and a refutation of the notion that you have to have a murder to have a mystery.

Mma Ramotswe, the “traditionally built” (i.e., not exactly sylph-like) proprietress of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana, doesn’t always get the kind of cases Sam Spade or Spenser take on. Even when the charges are blackmail or attempted murder, business is usually conducted without bloodshed. You don’t pick up one of these novels expecting a gritty, stomach-churning thrill ride, but you do expect that Mma Ramotswe and her formidable assistant Mma Makutsi are going to straighten everything out in the end. This book, the tenth in the series, does not disappoint.

The plot, in which the wealthy owner of a football (soccer) team hires the ladies to find out which team member might be deliberately sabotaging their success, is resolved in its typical tidy fashion. That’s not much of a spoiler for Mma Ramotswe’s fans. We savor the language in the books, letting its rhythms lull us into contemplation of Botswana, as if we too could come to know the country Mma Ramotswe is proud to call home. It is easy to slip into their manners and way of speaking.

That is not to say McCall Smith glosses over the trials Botswana’s people have endured, but in the person of Mma Ramotswe we find a warm, loving spirit who transcends these challenges. She is one of those brilliantly-realized fictional characters who seems larger than the printed page (and not just because she is, as she says, traditionally built). It is a pleasure to spend time in her company, as uplifting and relaxing as a fresh cup of bush tea.

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