Thursday, September 18, 2008

Meet Precious Ramotswe

I hope that you have already met Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, in the series of books by the same name. Precious (a woman of traditional build) solves cases in her beloved Botswana, where her agency shares a building with the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, a business owned and run by her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.

I just finished reading The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007), one of the later books in the series, and I thought that I'd try to explain to you why I love these books so much. Here are just a few of the reasons:

Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the series, somehow gets inside the heads of his women characters, and speaks with an authentic voice.

People in the books do a lot more thinking than speaking, and we are party to their thoughts and philosophies.

Precious always calls her husband by his full name, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, even in the privacy of their own home as they eat stewed pumpkin and roast meat.

The names of the people, in this particular book and all the others, are wonderful--in addition to Precious and her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, you will meet Mma Makutsi and her fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti. The melodiously named people just keep on coming--Tati Monyena, Mma Potokwane, Mr. Polopetsi, Sister Batshegi, and Mma Botumile. They are names that want to be spoken aloud, and I entertain my dogs immensely with my renditions of them as I read.

I whisper the place names to myself, as well. Mochudi. Gabarone. Lovely, aren't they?

One can pick up bits of the Setswana language, for so it is called, just in case one might need to say go well--Tsamaya sentle, or stay well--Sala sentle.

I've learned that citizens of Botswana are called Batswana (singular: Motswana). Women are referred to as Mma, as in Mma Ramotswe; men are referred to as Rra, as in Rra Monyena.

The people of Botswana, as represented in this series, have a charming way of speaking. For instance, a person who has died is referred to as "late." Not in the way we use the word for this situation, as in "your late wife," but in this way--"I am so sorry to hear that your wife is late."

Above all, I've learned how proud the Batswanas are of their country, their history, and their traditions. And I can't read a single chapter without wanting to jump up and brew a nice hot cup of red bush tea. Read the books--you'll crave the tea.

1 comment:

Sylvia K said...

I have heard of the books and now you've got my curiosity up so guess I have to make a trip to the library today. Thanks, as always, for the tip.