Sunday, April 17, 2011

Journey Once More to Far Off and Fairytale Lands

Just in time for my one year anniversary, I've got yet another AMS to review.  I think I've done one from each of his series already (No. 1 Ladies, Corduroy Mansions, 44 Scotland Street, Isabel Dalhousie, and also one independent), and since it's been a year, he's back with another No. 1 Ladies.   This was comes with some additional excitement for me, since I just went with Aunt Sarah and the lovely Sp girls (all except Ah!) to see the author in person.  It was an NPR-sponsored event, so not free of, what was to me, intrusive liberalism, but the man himself was delightful, just delightful.  He was polite, well spoken, quite amusing... I must say, more likeable than some of his characters :)

Anyway, I wouldn't say more likely then Mma Ramotswe., though.  She's quite a lady, that one.  I think I mentioned that I thought she seemed a little full of herself in the last book (only at times, of course)  but I really didn't get that feeling at all this time.  I don't know if it was my positive association with the author, if it was genuinely better than the last one, or if I was just in the mood for some light fiction after the fairly heavy fare of this past month :).   I can ask the Sp.s was their take is, as they are coming for Pesach (I'm journeying home on the Megabus right now myself).  But whatever the reason, I found The Saturday Big Tent Wedding to be as thoroughly enjoyable as any of the series.  Mma Ramotswe was wise, very wise; her talents in negotiating all matters of the social and emotional labyrinths were in demand and well showcased I thought.  Sometimes, I agreed with hers decisions, others I sat back and admired her ingenuity.  Of course, it's fiction, but I can still recognize a good woman when I see one :)

So Mma Ramotswe shines as always.  Mma Makutsi was her usual self as well, not as admirable, but not unlikeable all the same.  All was well with these two characters, though there were some pretty serious matters brought up in the course of the book, one in particular, I felt quite serious (involving Charlie).  But they were resolved without pain, and fairly quickly, by Mma Ramotswe (so funny how i never knew how to pronounce that before now :)) - quickly because the book was fairly short, not something I often complain about :) (especially when there's little plot to compel drawing out the narrative, as is the case here as with all the No. 1 books).  And other than the small matters, what was there... I felt less philosophy than usual.  Much made of the differences between men and women, as usual, but I think I noticed it more because AMS pointed it out as an important theme in his books (he does write a lot from women's POV, and does a fair job of it I think - maybe because he himself appears to be a quite a refined  person).  A lot about Botswana, especially old Botswana.  I don't necessarily agree with all the gender discussion (I mean, I'm not a feminist, but I think I have more equality in my relationships with men than they do), but that's definitely colored by my position as a working woman in the US (and of course frum, where our women, contrary to some's belief, really do wear the pants - metaphorically, of course ;)) rather than one in the more "traditional" nation of Botswana.  AMS pokes fun at those of us who view Africa as a huge backward continent, but his books, show that, while they may have cars, and phones, and internet, in many ways they are, if not backward, quite different and closer to the old rural societies of a century ago.

At least that's what his books say, in their praise of traditional Botswana.  It is an admirable country, whether real or romanticized (it is of course, admittedly, at least somewhat romanticized).  But AMS does such good job, not only of potraying Mma Ramotswe's love for the ways of her country, but drawing us into its bucolic charms through every aspect of the novel - plot, characters, and especially the spartan yet smooth and gentle language.  It really is a cup of red bush tea :) (That is a consummate treat, simple to procure, wholesome, and delicious to the senses - at least if you ask Mma Ramotswe :))

Verdict: 4/5

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