Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Year of Wonders: Portrait of Plague Village

"Dear friends, here we are, and here we must stay. Let the boundaries of this village become our whole world. Let none enter and none leave while this Plague lasts."
~Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks

In the book Year of Wonders, the charismatic rector Michael Mompellion implores the villagers to stay and not spread "the seed of the plague" outside of the village, and most agree to this self-imposed quarantine. But they are ill prepared for their fate and the depth of how all this hideous sickness and death will affect them. The descriptions of the plague are riveting; I knew so little about the particulars of this dreadful disease before reading this book, which starts as a fever or cough, "marks" victims with a large, painful, grotesque boil that appears suddenly, and progresses so rapidly that many victims would die within a couple of days. It's a very moving novel, based on the true story of the English village of Eyam, although the book blends historical fact with fiction. Some believed that the plague was God's judgement on the sinful world, and pleaded for forgiveness or self-flagellated; others questioned this, and looked to science for prevention and cures. The 1660s were the beginning of the age of modern medicine and the Age of Enlightenment, and in England, there was a shift from Puritanism to the ideas of the Restoration, so many questions about the role of faith are featured in this book. Year of Wonders deals with a most horrific subject and presents an unforgettable portrait of an isolated village outside of London during 1665-1666, which lost two-thirds of its inhabitants to the plague. The effects of all this loss are as widespread as the plague, causing some villagers to become more selfish, fearful of ghosts and witches, hateful, and murderous, while others, such as Anna Firth and Elinor Mompellion, become herbalists and healers who help ease the suffering, or Michael Mompellion, who serves those afflicted untiringly. I'm finished reading this haunting book, and may read more from this author, such as her book March, the fictional story of the father of the girls in Little Women, who leaves his family to fight in the Civil War.

On a different note, today's quest will be to obtain a copy of Nicholas Sparks' new book, The Lucky One, which is being released today. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nights in Rodanthe, the Movie

Yesterday I saw the movie I've been waiting all summer for, Nights in Rodanthe, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, based on the book by Nicholas Sparks. It's definitely a tearjerker, like all of Sparks' romances. If you see Nights in Rodanthe, unless you're really unemotional, expect to cry a bit, or at least to fight back the tears. Even the trailer for the movie starts to chokes me up. The scenery is breathtaking and features the wild beauty of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and the romance is, as always, bittersweet.

Here's a list of Sparks' best-selling books that have been made into movies so far. Click on the titles to view the movie trailers.


Message in a Bottle, 1999: stars Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, and the late, great Paul Newman A Walk to Remember, 2002: stars Mandy Moore and Shane West The Notebook, 2004: stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams Nights in Rodanthe, 2008: stars Diane Lane and Richard Gere

I've seen all of these movies except for Message in a Bottle, which I'll try to find on DVD.

As far as my reading goes, I'm still reading Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, but will finish it before Sept. 30, when Nicholas Sparks' new book, The Lucky One, will be released. You can bet I'll dash to the bookstore on Tuesday in hopes of getting a copy.  It'll be the next book I read. I suppose I'm a hopeless romantic.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Year of Wonders

I'm traveling back in time, to England in 1665, when the dreaded Bubonic plague spread from London to the small villages. I've just started reading Year of Wonders, written by Geraldine Brooks and published in 2001, a first person narrative told through the eyes and heart of a young widow, Anna Frith, who works as a servant for the rector and his wife. When Anna's border, the dashing tailor Mr. Viccars, succumbs to the plague, death has made an appearance in her home, and she fears for the lives of her own two young children. Named after a poem by John Dryden, Year of Wonders has already captured my deep interest in the way that historical fiction always does, transporting me to another era, one which though harsh, bleak, and dark in many ways, is also illuminated by human warmth as if by candlelight, and compels me to keep reading about the villagers who live in the cruel and capricious shadow of the plague. Brooks' descriptions are vivid and evocative, sometimes morbidly fascinating, and she has mastered the phrasings of the seventeenth century as well. Here, she describes Elinor Mompellion, the rector's wife:

"At five and twenty, Elinor Mompellion had the fragile beauty of a child. She was all pale and pearly, her hair a fine, fair nimbus around skin so sheer that you could see the veins pulsing at her temples. Even her eyes were pale, a white-washed blue like a winter sky. When I'd first met her, she reminded me of the blow-ball of a dandelion, so insubstantial that a breath might carry her away. But that was before I knew her. The frail body was paired with a sinewy mind, capable of violent enthusiasms and possessed of a driving energy to make and do. Sometimes, it seemed as if the wrong soul had been placed inside that slight body, for she pushed herself to her limits and beyond, and was often ill as a result. There was something in her that could not, or would not, see the distinctions that the world wished to make between weak and strong, between men and women, laborer and lord."
~Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks

Although the devastation of the plague, a deadly disease transmitted by infected fleas and rodents, was widespread and horrific, it's presence forced many to live more intensely and honestly, including the heroine of this story, Anna Frith, which may be the reason why I'm reading Year of Wonders so avidly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Miracle at Speedy Motors: Tea and Rain

"Oh, the thinks you can think!"
~Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904-1991)

I wonder if Dr. Seuss was referring to one of the benefits of drinking tea? There's nothing quite like a pot of tea to set your thoughts in order, to help discover new ways of thinking about things and solutions to troubling matters. In The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of books, tea helps the detectives and other Batswana think things through and come up with the best solutions to perplexing cases and problems; perhaps that is why they partake in this tradition so frequently, "to think better thinks".

Tea cup and tissues by my side, I've just finished reading the ninth and last book in this series, The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith. I 'm sad to depart from Botswana but am very satisfied with the ending of the book and series, which leaves readers hopeful and optimistic, as does the miracle of rain in this sun-parched nation:

"Two days passed--two days in which more rain fell, great cloudbursts of rain, drenching the length and breadth of Botswana. People held their breath in gratitude, hardly daring to speak of the deluge lest it should suddenly stop and the dryness return. The rivers, for long months little more than dusty beds of rust-colored sand, appeared again, filled to overflowing in some cases, twisting snakes of mud-brown water moving across the plains. . . . The bush, a dessicated brown before the storms, turned green overnight, as the shoots of dormant plants thrust their way through the soil. Flowers followed, tiny yellow flowers, spreading like a dusting of gold across the land. Ground vines sent out tendrils, melons would grow in abundance later on, as an offering, an expiation for the barrenness of the dry months that had gone before."
~The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Alexander McCall Smith

The tea cup is half-full.

Botswana Day is celebrated on September 30th, the day that this nation, which has achieved great economic growth within the past forty years, became independent from the British.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Miracle at Speedy Motors: More Tea Talk

I don't want my African adventures to end. I may try and make this one last, the final book in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith. On the other hand, I may just have to read this book at my normal speed, because it's so absorbing. In this book, there are many things to be pondered. At the detective agency we meet Mma Sebina, who wants to find out who her family is, no easy feat. Associate detective Mma Makutsi, who scored a 97 percent at the Botswana Secretarial College, gets a fancy new bed, but is not getting any sleep. There's also the matter of a miracle cure for Motholeli, who uses a wheelchair--is it too good to be true? And how many cattle constitute a fair dowry or bogadi? (Even Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who hold traditional Botswana values, think it would be better if a man did not have to pay for his wife, because a wife is not a thing to be bought or possessed.) I'm not quite half-way through The Miracle at Speedy Motors, and am once again enjoying the company of Mma Ramotswe and her entourage. With each book, the characters become more real, more fleshed out, showing their various human strengths and shortcomings. It must have been rather challenging for the author to write a series of nine books without boring the reader--just from blogging about them I face a similar challenge to a much lesser degree--but these books remain intriguing because the characters are more fully developed, and you really care about them. You also care about something important to them which they drink quite frequently, tea:

"Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni smiled. They were always having tea, as far as he could work out. There was the first cup, served shortly after they arrived in the office in the morning, and then there was the ten o'clock cup, which was sometimes taken at nine thirty in the hot weather. That was followed by the tea which was brewed at eleven thirty (the mid-morning tea), and of course there was tea immediately after lunch and again at three in the afternoon. He thought it was a good thing that the red bush tea contained no caffeine, or Mma Ramotswe would surely find it difficult to get to sleep at night, with all that caffeine in her system. Yet Mma Makutsi drank ordinary tea, which had ample quantities of caffeine in it, he believed; indeed he thought that this might explain why she was sometimes so tetchy with the apprentices, especially with Charlie. Mind you, anybody might be forgiven for being irritated by Charlie, with his constant boasting and that endless silly chatter about girls; even one with no caffeine at all in his system could find himself snapping at such a young man."
~The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Alexander McCall Smith

Just as a good TV series eventually must end at the right time, so must this series of books, I suppose, although I certainly wouldn't object to a tenth book. I will greatly miss this fine cast of characters, beautiful Botswana, and all the references to tea. Even when they sit around drinking tea, or perhaps especially when they sit around drinking tea, their world is warm and inviting.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

I never regret time spent in Botswana, in the serene world of Mma Ramotswe, a place of hope and good values, even as this African nation copes with modernization. In the eighth book of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, The Good Husband of Zebra Driveby Alexander McCall Smith, the agency investigates an errant husband, three mysterious deaths at the Mochudi hospital, as well as a case of suspected employee theft at a printing company. Three main characters, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, Mma Makutsi, and the older apprentice, Charlie, become restless and yearn for "greener pastures"; each seeks work outside of their chosen professions. Of course, the head detective remains calm and thoughtful, and while the others are like characters in the Wizard of Oz, seeking their fortunes on new paths, Mma Ramotswe grants them this freedom to explore--like a good mother. Will they return "home" ("there's no place like home"), which in this case is The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone, Botswana? I'll not reveal what happens here!

I read this book quickly, enjoyed it thoroughly, and even started the last book in the series, The Miracle at Speedy Motors last night. I'll be sad when I'm finished with the series, but know that I can always reread these beautiful books. I'm also trying to get the series on DVD; if anyone knows how I can do that please contact me. After I finish reading the ninth book, I may have a party to watch the show with friends and family, where I'll serve red tea and cake, and perhaps some African appetizers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blue Shoes and Happiness: Don't Read this Post

I've been reading this book quickly, eager to learn the significance of the title, Blue Shoes and Happiness. In chapter thirteen, the mystery is over. PLEASE STOP READING NOW if you want to be surprised by what happens; read an older post, navigate away from this site, shut down your computer, get back to work, grab a snack--do whatever you must to stay uninformed.

Are you still reading? Okay, but don't blame me for revealing too much. If you've read some of these books you may have surmised that Mma Makutsi, with her penchant for shoes (she already has a pair of green shoes with sky-blue linings), will be involved. She cannot resist a fashionable blue pair "with delicate high heels and toes which came to a point" while out shopping with Mma Ramotswe. In fact, Mma Makutsi is positively smitten by them, decides she must have them, and purchases them. Unfortunately, she tries wearing them, intent on "breaking them in", but they are not suited for her "traditionally built" feet, and cause her pain. She cannot walk in them, and later confesses to her understanding friend and employer, Mma Ramotswe:

"They are a bit small for me, Mma," she confessed. "I think you were right. But I felt great happiness when I wore them, and I shall always remember that. They are such beautiful shoes."
Mma Ramotswe laughed. "Well, that's the important thing, isn't it, Mma? To feel happiness, and then to remember it."
"I think that you're right," said Mma Makutsi. Happiness was an elusive thing. It had something to do with having beautiful shoes, sometimes, but it was about so much else. About a country. About a people. About having friends like this.
~Blue Shoes and Happiness, Alexander McCall Smith

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blue Shoes and Happiness: In the Company of Snakes and Feminists

Imagine a cobra coiled up at your feet--would you panic? I don't know much about surviving an encounter with a venomous snake, other than to limit sudden movements which could provoke a snake to strike. Blue Shoes and Happiness takes place in Africa--as do all the books in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series--where snakes are a real danger. In the second chapter of Blue Shoes and Happiness, a snake is discovered in the detective agency office, and while the chapter is humorous it's no laughing matter to deal with this formidable creature:

"And remember that they are as frightened of us as we are of them--possibly even more so." (Omed Ramotswe, Precious Ramotswe's late father) But no snake could have been as terrified as Mma Matkutsi when she saw the hood of the cobra at her feet sway from side to side. She knew she should avert her eyes, as such snakes can spit their venom into the eyes of their target with uncanny accuracy; she knew that, but still found her gaze fixed to the small black eyes of the snake, so tiny and so filled with menace.
~Blue Shoes and Happiness, Alexander McCall Smith


Needless to say, they survive this frightful snake encounter, and Alexander McCall Smith goes on to write the eighth book in this series. Another "frightening" subject in the book is feminism. What does it mean to women and men in Africa, and elsewhere? Is it something to be feared? When Mma Makutsi tells her fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti, that she's a feminist, after he asks her, she unwittingly scares him off, and soon regrets her "careless words". Phuti, who has not had much experience with women, fears that he'll be "swept aside" by this feminism--he even dreams of a giant broom--and be the target of future criticism and derision. Mma Makutsi's thoughts dwell on this matter and what feminism means to her:

"Of course she believed in those things which feminists stood up for--the right of women to have a good job and be paid the same amount as men doing the same work; the right of women to be free of bullying by their husbands. But that was all just good common sense, fairness really, and the fact that you supported these goals did not make you one of those feminists who said that men were finished. How could they say such a thing? We were all people--men and women--and you could never say that one group of people were less important than another. She would never say that, and yet Phuti Radiphuti now probably imagined that she would."
~Blue Shoes and Happiness, Alexander McCall Smith

A good way to think about feminism and sexism, in my opinion. Will Mma Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti resolve their misunderstanding and head towards matrimony? My fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies: Wise Words

I really enjoy the little bits of wisdom in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of books, and find myself subtly nodding in agreement.

"You are right, Mma, " said Mma Makutsi." We have never had so much happen all at the same time. It is better for things to happen separately. I have always said that." She paused to think for a moment before continuing. "At the Botswana Secretarial College they taught us to do one thing at a time. That is what they said we should do. One thing at a time."
~In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, Alexander McCall Smith

This may well be the age of multitasking: we text message, participate in computer chats, listen to music, work, do homework and chores, send and receive email, talk on the phone, and more--all at the same time! It's almost a luxury today to do one thing at a time. Do we feel inadequate unless we're doing several things simultaneously? Is there a shortage of time? Of course, sometimes we have no choice. In the case of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi will not turn down business, and for all of us events in life occur randomly and inconveniently at times. As for me, I have three children, so my own life often feels like a three-ring circus. There's always a lot going on at once.

I'm finished reading In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith. The seventh book in the series is Blue Shoes and Happiness. I've been waiting to read this one. The title alone makes me smile.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies: The Tea Cup is Half-Full














"It is a fine morning again," he said, as he walked up to her.
She turned to him and smiled. "I am always happiest in the early morning," she said. "Standing here in the garden watching the plants wake up. It is very good."
Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni agreed. He found it difficult to get out of bed as early as she did, but he knew that the first few hours of light was the best part of the day, a time of freshness and optimism.
~In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, Alexander McCall Smith

This passage from In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith captures the sense of optimism experienced by Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni in the early morning, before the intense heat and worries of the day set in. In the mornings, the tea cup is half-full; each new day holds promise and possibility, as well as peace and excitement for what's ahead. As the hours of the morning pass, we move into different states of mind. If the lesson of the morning would last for the day, then we'd effortlessly stay optimistic and positive throughout the day!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In The Company of Cheerful Ladies: A Mysterious Pumpkin, and Red Tea

The New York Times Book Review called this book, "A literary confection of . . .gossamer deliciousness. . . ." I've just started reading another very enjoyable tale set in Botswana, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith. Super sleuth Mma Ramotswe has a mystery in her own life right now--who left the delectable pumpkin on her porch? (That shouldn't spoil too much of the story for you should you decide to read it!) As with all the books in this series, the beginning chapter summarizes events from the previous books, so readers don't need to read each one to know what's going on, although I've made the choice to read each book of the series, in order.

Last night I had to pick up a few groceries and found a container of rooibos, the ever-present tea in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, to enjoy at home. I was tempted to buy a red tea with the enticing name of "Botswana Blossom", but decided to get the plain red tea instead, as I'm a bit of a purist. Red tea is an indigenous herb of South Africa called rooibos (ROY-boss). It's supposed to be very healthy, loaded with polyphenols and flavonoids which help protect against the onset of aging and disease. Red tea apparently has all the benefits of green tea, without the caffeine.

I'm thrilled to report that I've been getting more international traffic to Suko's Notebook--from at least 16 countries--including numerous guests from Gaborone, Botswana, the setting for The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency books! Of course, I also greatly appreciate my visitors from the United States. As always, I welcome your comments, and pertinent questions may be emailed to me--I usually respond within 24 hours. One remarkable thing about the internet is that it brings people from all over the world closer together. As we conduct searches and research from our homes, offices, libraries, and schools--or anywhere else with an internet connection--we connect with people world-wide and learn about other cultures--and seem a bit closer to peace on earth.

On this seventh anniversary of the horrific events of Sept. 11th, please take at least a few moments to remember the victims, as well as the many heroes of that day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More About The Full Cupboard of Life

As you can see, I've found an ideal basket for The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series of books. Having finished reading The Full Cupboard of Life today, I 'll soon start In The Company of Cheerful Ladies (perched on top of the other books).

In a previous post, The Power of Books, I spoke about Mma Potokwane's desire to write a book about running an orphan farm. Here are a few more words about the subject:

"You must write that book, Mma,"urged Mma Ramotswe. "I would read it, even if I was not planning to run an orphan farm."
"Thank you,' said Mma Potokwane. "Maybe I shall do that one day. But at the moment I am so busy looking after all these orphans and making tea and baking fruit cake and all those things. There seems very little time for writing books."
"That is a pity," said Mma Makutsi.
~The Full Cupboard of Life, Alexander McCall Smith

These ladies echo the sentiments of Virginia Woolf.

Mma Potokwane has become a more central character by the fifth book in the series, The Full Cupboard of Life. Like Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, we know that when Mma Potokwane serves him special cakes, as she frequently does, he should be on his guard because she'll inevitably ask a big "favor" of him. It's difficult--if not impossible--for this very kind man to turn this very strong woman down, and her requests are often quite large.

I'm looking forward to reading the sixth book in this series by Alexander McCall Smith, and expect to soon find myself in the company of cheerful ladies.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tea Talk


"Tea of course, made the problem seem smaller, as it always does, and by the time they reached the bottoms of their cups, and Mma Makutsi had reached for the slightly chipped tea-pot to pour a refill, it had become clear what they would have to do."
~The Full Cupboard of Life, Alexander McCall Smith

In the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith, Mma Ramotswe and her assistant, Mma Makutsi, are always brewing, drinking, or thinking about African red bush tea, called rooibos. In fact, I first heard about these books from my sister-in-law, Britta, a couple of years ago, when I mentioned that I drank red tea, and she told me that she'd heard about it in these books. It took me a few years before I read my first The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book, but now I'm hooked on the series. I'm also a tea drinker but drink mostly green, black, and oolong tea, although I have red tea occasionally . The general sense in these books is that tea helps with all matters, large and small, and there's much talk with tea as well as of tea. Here in The Full Cupboard of Life, Mma Ramotswe craves a mug of tea and tries to convey this to Mr. Bobologo:

"So I see,"said Mma Ramotswe. "And I see, too, that they have just made tea".
"It is better for them to drink tea than strong liquor," intoned Mr Bobolgo, looking disapprovingly at one of the girls, who cast her eyes downwards, in shame.
"Those are my view, too," said Mma Ramotswe."Tea refreshes. It clears the mind. Tea is good at any time of the day, but specially at mid-day, when it is so hot.' She paused, and then added, 'As it is today."
"You are right, Mma," said Mr Bobologo. "I am a great drinker of tea. I cannot understand why anybody would want to drink anything else when there is tea to be had. I have never been able to understand that."
~The Full Cupboard of Life, Alexander McCall Smith

Unfortunately, Mr Bobologo doesn't get the message, and Mma Ramotswe must go without the coveted cup of tea.

Later in the book, Mma Ramotswe asks herself what's important in her life--and comes up with a ubiquitous three letter word:

"Most people had something in their lives that was particularly important to them, and she supposed that the Botswana Secretarial college was as good a cause as any. What was it in her own case, she wondered? Tea?"
~The Full Cupboard of Life, Alexander McCall Smith

Tea comes to her mind (though she wishes she could think of something else). In these books, tea is nearly as important as any other character, and chapter eight is even titled, "Tea is Always the Solution". I often find myself craving a cup of tea as I read them.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Google!


Happy Birthday to Google, the richest and most powerful 10-year-old in the world! At least I think today is Google's tenth birthday. Launched in 1998 by two twenty-something guys who met at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google is the world's most comprehensive search engine. We live in the Google Age--I even googled "Google Age" and confirmed my belief! What would the world do without Google? How would we find out about every conceivable (and inconceivable) topic in a flash? Google is an unrivaled research tool--it's hard to imagine what life would be like without being able to use this astounding search engine. There was life before Google (wasn't there?) but now we are so spoiled! For example, how would you find my blogs, Suko's Notebook or La Vache Intéressante, without doing a Google search? It would be a real pain to have to carefully type in the blog addresses each time! I've course I'm kidding but the point is that Google makes finding the needle in the haystack so much easier and faster! Happy birthday! And THANK YOU, Google!

(P.S. In three years, Google will be a teenager--who knows what will happen then?)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Beautiful Botswana

It's difficult to write about The Full Cupboard of Life, or any book for that matter, without revealing too much of the plot. It's much better to read the book for yourself and see how events unfold. So, I'll write a few words instead about the beautiful country that intrigues me, the African nation of Botswana, as depicted in The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. In The Full Cupboard of Life, the main character, the head detective herself, Mma Ramotswe, describes Botswana this way in her thoughts:

"There was a country so large that the land seemed to have no limits; there was a sky so wide and so free that the spirit could rise and soar and not feel in the least constrained; and there were the people, the quiet, patient people, who had survived in this land, and who loved it. Their tenacity was rewarded, because underneath the land there were diamonds, and the cattle prospered, and brick by brick the people built a country of which anybody could be proud. That was what Botswana had, and that's why it was a fortunate country."
~ The Full Cupboard of Life, Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe's pride in her country is palpable and contagious; I picture the incredible expansiveness of both land and sky. I've included a map and flag of Botswana from (wonderful) Wikipedia; stunning photos of Botswana can be found on Technorati.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Full Cupboard of Life: The Power of Books

I'm still enjoying The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith, slowly but surely. For some reason, the book, which I ordered from an amazon marketplace seller, has the faint smell of garlic, as if it had been stored in a cupboard which housed some pungent bulbs. It doesn't really matter, and the book, a hardcover, is in beautiful condition. In The Full Cupboard of Life, Mma Potokane, the strong and clever manager of the "the orphan farm", has some positive thoughts about books:

"At the end of each term, those who had done well would receive a prize for their efforts; an atlas perhaps, or a Setswana Bible, or some other book which would be useful at school. Although she was not a great reader, Mma Potokwane was a firm believer in the power of books. The more books Botswana had, in her view, the better. It would be on books that the future would be based; books and the people who knew how to use them."
~The Full Cupboard of Life, Alexander McCall Smith

Fiction aside, there's a real problem with orphans in Africa, because of diseases, famine, and other problems, which leave children without parents to raise them. Mma Potokwane thinks that if she were to write a book, it would be an instructional manual on how to run an orphan farm, with practical advice about management, fund-raising, and child psychology. She's not sure that she's up to the task of writing a book, but if she did, she'd express "the old Botswana morality" by writing something that would help others.

Interestingly, I had a reader from Gaborone, Botswana--the setting for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books--visit this blog a few days ago. This person was researching the importance of books!

The Botswana Book Project, established in 1998 by Pam Shelton, is helping to build libraries in beautiful Botswana.

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