Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

by Alexander McCall Smith

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
by Alexander McCall Smith

Review posted November 27, 2011.
Pantheon Books, New York, 2011. 213 pages.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Standout: #5 Other Fiction

I do love the No. One Ladies' Detective Agency books! This is the twelfth book in the series, and I really do think you will enjoy them more by reading them in order, though I'm sure you would also enjoy them jumping right in.

These books are for people who don't mind a little author meandering. The fact that Mma Ramotswe is a detective adds some interesting cases, and plot related to that, but mostly the book is about the people and the interesting problems they encounter. Some of the problems always relate to their own personal lives, but they are also tied in with the problems brought to them in their role as detectives.

In The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Mma Ramotswe seems to be haunted by the ghost of her beloved tiny white van; Mma Makotsi is finally preparing for her wedding, including finding the perfect shoes; the apprentice Charlie has gotten into bigger trouble than ever; and they have a large and complicated case, involving rich men, a possibly innocent child, and someone cruel enough to harm animals.

The details of the plot are not the point of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books. They are about spending time with dear friends, kind friends who take seriously the bad things out in the world, but also thoroughly enjoy the good things. I happened to read this volume in the hospital, and it was the perfect light pleasant reading, not requiring a lot of thought, but nicely taking my mind off how I was feeling.

I love Mma Ramotswe's musings on life. Here is one brought on by a remembrance of her father:

Later, much later, she remembered his words and pondered them. We cannot always stop the things we do not like. She knew now what he meant, of course -- that nature had to be left to take its course -- but she had realised that there was a far greater truth there too. There were some things that one could stop, or try to stop, but it was a mistake to go through life trying to interfere in things that were beyond your control, or which were going to happen anyway, no matter what you did. A certain amount of acceptance -- which was not the same thing as cowardice, or indifference -- was necessary or you would spend your life burning up with annoyance and rage.

And here are her musings on weddings:

She stood still for a while, thinking about marriage. A wedding was a strange ceremony, she thought, with all those formal words, those solemn vows made by one to another; whereas the real question that should be put to the two people involved was a very simple one. Are you happy with each other? was the only question that should be asked; to which they both should reply, preferably in unison, Yes. Simple questions -- and simple answers -- were what we needed in life. That was what Mma Ramotswe believed. Yes.