I was at a friend’s cottage this past weekend and we had a fabulous time! Luckily, in between outdoor adventures, trivial pursuit ( with just the cards, not the whole game ), beer, s’mores and chatting, there was time to read Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith In this sweet installment of the always-pleasing No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Mma Ramotswe has quite a bit on her plate --- even for a traditionally-built woman.
Her fiancé, the excellent Mr.J.L.B. Matekoni is suffering from the signs of depression, a Government Official believes that his sister-in-law is trying to poison his brother and bills are piling up at the agency—with few too cases to counter them. Not to mention, J.L.B. Matekoni is unavailable to work in his condition and while he hides out at the orphan farm to recuperate and take some medication, Mma Makutse ( her prickly, be-spectacled and utterly delightful secretary) finds herself the manager of Twolkeng Speedy Motors. It is a sumptuous book. Mma Ramotswe is so jolly and delightful she’s Prozac! You just feel giddy reading about her and how innately good she is.
This particular installment delves into the backstory of her adopted orphans, Puso and Motholeli and gave a bleak glimpse into the hardships African children undergo upon the death of parents. McCall Smith speaks very starkly about J.L.B’s depression and we, as well as Mma Ramotswe, not only sympathize but no what is at stake for someone so well respected to be under the cloud of such a condition. Mma Ramotswe goes undercover to a farm near her home village of Mochudi and we see, for the first time, how the legacy of her father has rippled through the local community.
I really enjoyed this book and its subtle wisdom. What a great tonic these stories are! While Mma Ramotswe is out of Gabarone, Mma Makutsi is approached by Two Shots Poulani: one of Botswana’s lead Beauty Contest orchestrators ( according to McCall Smith, beauty pageants are quite popular in Bostwana and they always jump at a chance to crown a pretty girl). Sponsors are concerned that the women parading in the pageants do not have the moral integrity needed to provide a good example to spectators. Thus, Mma Makutsi ( who, face it!, has always found women in short skirts and heels problematic due to her own dwindling self worth) has no trouble writing off girls who aren’t nearly worthy enough of the title of Miss Beauty and Integrity. When she finds a beautiful, rural girl who not only embodies the humble spirit needed of a girl of integrity but wants to attend the Botswana Secretarial College, Mma Makutsi finds herself rooting for a beauty contest contestant. All in all a charmingly wonderful story.