The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

Public_transport_in_Gaborone(Public transportation in Gaborone, Botswana – photo Wikimedia Commons)

Alexander McCall Smith did a good thing when he crafted the character of Mma Precious Ramotswe. In each book, she is consistently the kind, traditional, perceptive, tender-hearted, contented woman I’ve come to regard as my friend.

And yet, he doesn’t filter out all the unsavory aspects of Botswana life. In this 12th book of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series, we see a young mother who treats her children with utter indifference, cattle killed, a menacing man and a cowed woman.

I recently finished The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, the twelfth book. I’m reading them out of order, according to library availability.

The title of the first chapter is The Memory of Lost Things; could it be an allusion to Proust?

As with every book in this series, I care about Mma Ramotswe’s culture ten times more than whatever mystery needs to be solved. There’s a dig at mobile phones, complainers, fathers who don’t take responsibility for their children. On the plus side is Mma’s abiding love for her late father and for her ‘late’ tiny white van, her compassion for those who suffer, the poetry of night sounds, her gratitude for Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, her encouragement to an undeserving recipient, and the joy of an abundant wedding feast.

There is a tender moment between two bereaved women. I have a late baby, Mma. It is a long time ago. ~ I have a late child too, Mma. McCall Smith understands the permanence of grief. Almost every book has a small reference to the baby Mma Ramotswe lost.

In the end Grace Makutsi marries Phuti Radiphuti, which means she will never have to ride in public transportation again, and she can indulge her love of loud shoes. The wedding doesn’t have the prominence that the title gives it, but that’s OK.

Here is a quote to whet your appetite.

Nowadays, people are always thinking of getting somewhere—they travelled around far more, rushing from here to there and then back again. She would never let her life go that way; she would always take the time to drink tea, to look at the sky, and to talk. What else was there to do? Make money? Why? Did money bring any greater happiness than that furnished by a well-made cup of red bush tea and a moment or two with a good friend? She thought not. 230



13 thoughts on “The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

  1. Love love love these books, but I have been attempting to read them in order as I find them in used book sales. I am encouraged now to abandon this plan since you are pretty much a “Jedi master” when it comes to reading 🙂 I feel empowered !! Thanks hon.

  2. I do agree with you Carol, AMS writes beautifully and Mma Ramotswe is a special character. My dad and I have read all the books and are eager for the next one to come out. The way AMS ends some or all of the books, with Mma thinking or saying “Africa, Africa, Africa” just touches my heart. love and prayers, jep

    • I love the Africa at the end, too.

      I still remember exactly where I was on a road when I first heard:
      “Mma Ramotswe did not want Africa to change. She did not want her people to become like everybody else, soulless, selfish, forgetful of what it means to be an African, or, worse still, ashamed of Africa. She would not be anything but an African, never, even if somebody came up to her and said “Here is a pill, the very latest thing. Take it and it will make you into an American.” She would say no. Never. No thank you.”

  3. “McCall Smith understands the permanence of grief.” I cannot tell you the comfort I find in people who are willing to accept and embrace this simple fact. At times I am ashamed of how changed I am by grief, but then I remember it is what has made me ME, and that is a good thing. I stopped reading these books years ago, and you have reignited the flame! Thanks, my friend.


  4. Carol, the photo could have been taken in our street:-) … the taxi is an efficient mode of transport for the commuters….but dangerous for the rest of the motorists on the roads….the drivers have their own set of traffic rules…;-)…and the passengers (the characters in your story) represent the pupils in one of my classes…a real life story….set in Jozi…

    I do enjoy your reading adventures…and your books, once on my reading list, become favorites on the shelf…

  5. I so enjoy Alexander McCall Smith. Have you read any of the 44 Scotland Street series? They’re not quite as “homey” as the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, but the characters are lovably fallible and delightful. Poor little Bertie with his overbearing mother and caring but weak father!

    • I’ve read the first two or three 44 Scotland books and I LOVE Bertie. I see that I have some catching up to do with them.

      I’ve read a few Sunday Philosophy Club books, too. I don’t love them, but they always provoke thought.

      I’ve collected some books that AMS himself enjoys, but they sit, alas, unread on my shelf. I love his sense of humor. He’s the kind of author I would so love to have over for dinner.

Comments are cinnamon on my oatmeal!

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