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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review: In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

I've been shying away from reading heavy stuff for now because I don't want to add stress to my already stressful existence by reading something very serious or heavy. In times like this, one of my go-to authors has been Alexander McCall Smith.

This Zimbabwe-born Scottish author has created a female detective protagonist that would make Africans proud. He has written a set of novels, all set in Botswana, all about the adventures of Mma Precious Ramotswe, a traditionally built African woman who solves detective cases for her clients in Gaborone.

Because of this series of novels, Botswana is one of the countries I would love to visit in the future. I think it's one of the more stable African countries economically and politically. It does not boast of any impressive natural structures but just verifying things that have been written about the country would be adventure enough for me.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, Precious finally gets to put a dot into her tempestuous relationship with her very first lover, the wife-beater Note Mokoti. Her assistant, Mma Makutsi, finally finds a husband as well.

A lot of wonderful and crazy things also happen in the story, all reflecting the unique way of life in Gaborone, Botswana - like tracking a van through a desert, or finding out that there are illegal drinking places there as well, and that ballroom dancing is a popular way to meet your next mate!

And that like anywhere in the world, there is prejudice against people who are not locals, like South Africans or Zambians or even the native peoples of the Kalahari Desert!

I have been drawn to reading his books, especially those that are set in Botswana, because the life depicted there is so organic and so different from the urban haze and maelstrom that is Metro Manila.

Yes, I can feel the extreme heat that the book describes, and I'm a bit wary of encountering wild animals like leopards and poisonous snakes. But it's one of those rare novels that feature a place that is not commonly featured by other authors. Only someone who actually grew up there or have lived there, will have the confidence to write about the place and its people and all their unique nuances.

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