Thursday, November 3, 2016

Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith: A review



Whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed by the rudeness, unthinking and unthinkable cruelties, and selfishness of the world that we live in, I like to take a break from it all by visiting Botswana. There, I can sit in the shade of a tree and drink red bush tea with Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi and listen to Precious expound on her philosophy of life and her view of what is important. For example, there is her rumination about the past:
There were too many people who took the view that the past was bad, that we should rid ourselves of all traces of it as soon as possible. But the past was not bad; some of it may have been less than perfect - there had been cruelties then that we had done well to get rid of - but there had also been plenty of good things. There had been the old Botswana ways, the courtesy and the kindness; there had been the attitude that you should find time for other people and not always be in a desperate rush; there had been the belief that you should listen to other people, should talk to them rather than spending all of your time fiddling with your electronic gadgets; there had been the view that it was a good thing to sit under a tree sometimes and look up at the sky and think about cattle or pumpkins or non-electric things like that. 
Old Botswana ways actually sound a lot like the ways I was brought up with, and perhaps it is important, as Precious says, not to abandon all the good that existed in those ways in our rush to embrace the "new and improved" modern ways. 

That is the philosophy with which Precious faces life and which she tries to impart to those around her, not always successfully to the newly installed co-director of her No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Grace Makutsi.

Grace is always eager to welcome modern innovations and introduce them into her life, including her workplace, sometimes at the expense of more traditional Botswana sensibilities. The "traditionally built" Precious Ramotswe is also traditional in her cautious approach to life and to her work, always weighing the effect that her words and actions may have on others. This difference in ways of thinking inevitably brings some conflicts into their relationship, conflicts which call on Precious' remarkable talents for tact and diplomacy in order to resolve them.

This happens again with their latest case. A Canadian woman who was born and lived the first few years of her life in Botswana returns there and contacts the detectives to try to locate some people from her past. She wants to find the nursemaid who helped care for her and some of her childhood friends. And she wants to see the house where she and her parents lived. 

Unfortunately, she doesn't have much to go on. She was a child when they left Botswana and her memories are vague. Her parents are deceased and she doesn't have addresses or the full names of the people she is seeking. Precious and Grace take different views of her request and employ different tactics in fulfilling it. But in the end, somewhat surprisingly, they both get results.

In addition to working on this case, life goes on and brings its daily share of mysteries and problems which Precious tries to solve. Fanwell, the tender-hearted apprentice of her mechanic husband takes on the care of a stray dog - a dog that he has no place to keep and little to feed. Of course, Precious ends up finding a home for this "orphan" dog. Meanwhile, her friend and sometime assistant, the meek and mild Mr. Polopetsi, has managed to get himself entangled in a pyramid scheme and requires the help of Precious to extricate him with his honor intact.

Of course, there are regular visits with Precious' good friend, Silvia Potokwani, the director of the orphan farm, in which large quantities of Mma Potokwani's famous fruit cake are consumed and, as usual, Grace's nemesis, Violet Sepotho, is still causing her heartburn, but this time even Violet seems to be developing into a more gracious and courteous woman. Perhaps Precious is rubbing off on her.

Would that she could rub off on all of us.  

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 comments:

  1. It's always nice to return to our comfort reading from time to time.

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    1. Yes, any comfort is much appreciated these days.

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  2. As well as needing a break from the current world, I also sometimes need a break from all the weird, dark, literary novels I love and read. I haven't read this series but I appreciate what it does for you.

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    1. It is definitely comforting to spend time in Precious' company.

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