The Suitcase Lady


December 10, 2013, 9:14 pm

If asked who my favorite author is, I would not hesitate a second. Alexander McCall Smith has given me boundless reading pleasure for so many years that I would happily nominate the man as a living treasure.

Born in Africa and a professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh, Mr. Smith is also a bassoon player in “The Really Terrible Orchestra”. He is the author of over 50 books, and I hope many more will come.

I read at least one book every week, most of which come from my local libraries. Being naturally frugal, I love the concept of free books. But Alexander McCall Smith’s books are an exception. I walk into a Barnes and Noble (my daughter is a B&N manager and I am loyal) and buy many of his new releases almost as soon as they hit the shelves. I read my new purchases within days and eagerly await the next ones.

I must note an extremely odd fact: I find several of my favorite author’s series completely unreadable. Despite repeated attempts, I cannot get into the 44 Scotland Street or Corduroy Mansions series. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and Isabel Dalhousie novels are the ones that draw me to the booksellers.

Precious Ramotswe and her husband, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni of Tlokweng Speedy Motors, are my most beloved fictional characters. Mr. Smith’s newest arrival in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon. My favorite passage in the book follows. I believe its true hilarity may be understood best by traditional women of my age, but kindly give it a try.

Mma Ramotswe comes home from work and finds her husband in the kitchen.

“What are you doing, Rra?”

He turned around almost guiltily.

“I am cooking the potatoes, Mma Ramotswe. I am helping you with the evening meal.”

She looked over his shoulder and into the pot. It was tricky working out exactly what he was doing. “What is happening inside this pot, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni?”

He shot her a puzzled glance. “I thought we might have mashed potatoes. I know you like those.”

“I do.  So are you mashing them now?”

He nodded. “And it is rather hard work, Mma.”

“You’re mashing them even before you have cooked them, Rra?”

He frowned. “You cook them first?”

Mma Ramotswe reached around him and took the pan out of his hands. It was half filled with water in which fragments of raw potato floated morosely, like a soup. Very gently she poured the mixture down the drain. “I will show you how to start with new ones,” she said. “You cook the potatoes first and then you take them out and mash them up with butter and salt. That is how potatoes are made, Rra.”


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