Review: Tears of the Giraffe

Tears of the Giraffe
Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow – in the opening scenes I was transported to a part of Africa I’ve barely glimpsed but recognized immediately. I could see the thorn trees and the criss-crossed native trails, smell the smoke of early morning woodfires, and hear the cattlebells. I just love the way McCall Smith captures the beauty of this land and its people.

Tears of the Giraffe continues on from The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in the same passive voice and deceptively simplistic style. McCall Smith portrays a people who are strongly opinionated (girls can’t be mechanics – whoever heard of such a thing?!) but who are incredibly capable of changing their minds as soon as new evidence presents itself.

From naive discussions on simple maths:

Mma Makutsi had four brothers and two sisters and she thought this had prevented her parents from paying adequate attention to the education of each of them.

‘It was a miracle that I got 97 percent,’ she said.

‘If there had only been three children then you would have got over 100 percent,’ Mma Ramotswe observed.

‘Impossible,’ said Mma Makutsi. ‘Nobody has ever got over 100 percent in the history of the Botswana Secretarial College. It’s just not possible.’

-to the concept of having maids and servants:

It was inconsiderate not to have a gardener if, like Dr Ranta, you were in a well-paid white-collar job. It was a social duty to employ domestic staff, who were readily available and desperate for work. Wages were low – unconscionably low, thought Mma Ramotswe – but at least the system created jobs.

If everybody with a job had a maid, then that was food going into the mouths of the maids and their children. If everybody did their own housework and tended their own gardens, then what were the people who were maids and gardeners to do?

– to the way in which even intimately close people call each other Mr and Mrs (Rra and Mma); McCall Smith manages to convey everything with honour, respect and warmth.

Oh, and there’s always a crime to be solved, but I suspect that’s just an excuse to get to fall in love with his characters.

View all my reviews

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