One of the joys of the books of Alexander McCall Smith is their quirky titles: In just one series, named after its first book "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," Smith has additional titles ranging from "Tears of the Giraffe" to "The Full Cupboard of Life" and a place I wish I could visit, "The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon." (After all, who would admit to going to The Major Overhaul Beauty Salon?)
So when I caught up to "The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine" (Pantheon Books, 2015), I knew I'd find the Botswana setting and the characters familiar from the other books -- Mma Precious Ramotswe, the founder of the detective agency, and her husband, mechanic Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. I also knew I'd find the meaning behind the title -- somehow, with patience and a good cup of tea.
I found the imagery, still somewhat mysterious, on Feb. 14 of all days. I was musing over it today as I walked in the afternoon sunshine in Chicago. I can share it with you without spoiling the case, because another advantage of McCall Smith's books is that he knows the difference between a problem for the detectives to solve and a mystery for them (and us as readers) to ponder.
In Chapter Nine, Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (which is how they respectfully address one another) are at home and talking about things over dinner. Mma R. is struggling with the unusual feeling of being on holiday (or vacation, as we'd say in Chicago). Mr. M. looks up from his dinner.
"Mma Ramotswe," he said, "you can do anything. Nothing is too hard for a person like you -- nothing. You are very good at doing everything, Mma, and anything you do, Mma -- anything at all -- will always be the right thing as far as I am concerned."
She gazed at her husband. Being loved and admired by a man like that -- and she knew that this man, this mechanic, this fixer of machines and their broken hearts, did indeed love and admire her -- was like walking in the sunshine; it gave the same feeing of warmth and pleasure to bask in the love of one who has promised it, publicly at a wedding ceremony, and who is constant in his promise that such love will be given for the rest of his days. What more could any woman ask?"
I don't even ask that much; I can bask just fine by myself. But I can ask more, in another direction: How in the world did a man learn to write so well about women?!
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
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