The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith is for those who both like mystery and gentle, lovely humor!
by Charlie Leck
My wife keeps the above sign, hanging from the wall above her work desk. I see it there whenever I’m muddling around in her office, looking for something or getting some little thing fixed on her computer. Naturally, I wonder about it and its meaning in her life. Certainly it doesn’t really have anything to do with me, now – do you think?
Today when I saw it, again, it reminded me of something I had read in one of Alexander McCall Smith’s little books in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series. I went looking for it and found it in The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007). It comes right at the opening of the novel.
“It is useful, people generally agree, for a wife to wake up before her husband. Mma Ramotswe always rose from her bed an hour or so before Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni – a good thing for a wife to do because it affords time to accomplish at least some of the day’s tasks. But it is also a good thing for those wives whose husband are inclined to be irritable first thing in the morning – and by all accounts there are many of them, rather too many, in fact. If the wives of such men are up and about themselves – not that Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni was ever like that; on the contrary, he was the most good-natured and gracious of men, rarely raising his voice, except occasionally when dealing with his two incorrigible apprentices at Tlokwent Road Speedy Motors. And anybody, no matter how even-tempered he might be, would have been inclined to raise his voice with such feckless young men.”
I don’t see myself as a person who awakens in grouchy moods in the morning, but it is difficult to hold a mirror up to oneself at the proper angle. Isn’t it?
I especially don’t awaken in a bad mood on Sunday mornings. It is, as I have said here a dozen times or more, my favorite time of the week. It is the New York Times morning – a couple of fried eggs and a slice of ham, with some god-awful toasted rice bread (I’ve been forced to go gluten-free these days) and a luscious cup of hot coffee with just a dash of caramel flavoring in it.
Even the dog knows to leave me alone on Sunday mornings, so I can immerse myself in some delightful, entertaining and educational reading. If I don’t have a Sunday morning golf round scheduled, I surface around noon and consider what I must do for the rest of the day.
As I work through my Sunday morning reading, I take notes occasionally, if I come across something that I think might fit into my blogs for the coming week.
The little woman tries to sleep in on Sunday mornings – at least until about seven. By that time I’ve finished a great deal of my reading and I can share anything that I think will particularly interest her.
Sundays are also meant for light reading. When the newspapers are set aside and I still have time before noon, I’ll pick up something to read just for enjoyment. That’s where Alexander McCall Smith comes in (stage right). His writing, as I hope you can see from the above quotation, is delightfully smooth and easy. He has a delicate sense of humor and his characters charm me. His novels in this particular series are never very long (approximately 200 pages) and you can put that away in no time without having to worry about thinking too much. The kicker that gets thrown in, which makes the endeavor so worthwhile, is that the little mysteries are wrapped in both fascinating writing and very good stories.
When one closes one of Smith’s books, one normally feels refreshed and better about life than when one started reading. For instance, here’s how the above mentioned book closes…
Mma Ramotswe smiled at Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. He was such a good man, such a kind man, and he was her husband.
“That engine I’ve been working on will run so sweetly,” he remarked as he poured his tea.
“Like life,” she said.
Ah, sweet Sunday mornings. These are times to repress thoughts about horrible oil spills and man’s deep-seeded tendencies toward selfishness and immorality!
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