Library Director’s Notebook
Like many people who are avid readers, I turn to books for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I like to read books that will make me laugh; other times I intentionally choose books that will make me sit up and pay close attention to some complex philosophical treatise or psychological insight. There are books I read primarily to learn new information, and others I read just because they comfort me.
One of the most comforting series of books I’ve ever read are those written by Alexander McCall Smith in his No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels. These books are set in modern Botswana and feature the detective skills and the compassionate, practical philosophy of Precious Ramotswe, a woman in early middle age who uses an inheritance from her beloved father to start Botswana’s first female owned and operated detective agency.
Precious is a unique character. She acknowledges herself to be of “traditional build”, knowing that her comfortable and expansive girth is often appreciated by African men. More importantly, Precious is a woman who listens to others with an open mind, responds with kindness, is usually tolerant rather than judgmental of human foibles, and lives her life following a careful code of conduct.
In the latest in the series, entitled The Double Comfort Safari Club, Precious and her redoubtable sidekick Mma Makutsi who works not only as her office secretary but as an assistant detective must risk encounters with lions and hippos to try to find an African safari guide who has been left a generous legacy by a grateful American tourist; help someone who has been cheated out of the deed to his house; discover whether a client’s husband is truly committing adultery; and find a way to free Phuti, Mma Makutsi’s fiancé from the clutches of his scheming aunt. While not really involving any prosecutable crimes, these mysteries and their solutions will have a real effect on the lives of many people. Precious never lets herself forget the importance of the work she does, nor ceases to add to her growing stock of insight into the lives of everyday people.
These slender books are always written with such warmth, humor, and wisdom that they seem to carry their own atmosphere of balmy breezes and fragrant air, transporting us to Botswana, beloved by its citizens who view it with great pride. While in no way ignoring crimes and the people who commit them, Precious is upheld by her belief in the basic goodness of the world and by her enduring love for her country and its people.
The Double Comfort Safari Club is a comforting book; and sometimes a little comfort is a precious thing!