Title: Tears of the Giraffe
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Abacus [this ed 2003, originally ed 2000]
I’m a bit behind in this series as this is only the second of what will, this year, be a ten-book collection. This installment begins with Mme Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni confirming their engagement. At the same time Mme Ramotswe is called upon to investigate the disappearance of a young American man some ten years previously and Mr Matekoni is assisting the local orphan farm to maintain its ageing machinery.
If you have read any of these books at all you’ll know exactly what to expect. The individual annecdotes and events might change from book to book but the overall feel of all them is, I suspect, similar. There’s a plethora of homespun philosophy and wry ovservations from Mme Ramotswe although, in this book more than the first, Mr Matekoni’s personality and views on how the world is to be tackled are explored more fully. Both are truly delightful characters: the kind of people you would happily travel to the other side of the world to have a cup of tea with.
McCall Smith was born in what was then Rhodesia and has lived in Africa on and off over his life. His love for, and understanding of, the continent is evident in every word of this book. The cadence of the dialogue, the vivid descriptions of the places and the traits exhibited by the key characters all combine to provide an utterly immersive experience. And, as with the first book, it paints a picture of Africa not often seen: a collection of happy, productive, proud people going about their daily lives with the same struggles, concerns and triumphs that people do the world over.
This book contains a more cohesive several-threaded narrative than the first one which was more a collection of vignettes and I prefer the apporach here. However, the story is still gentle and can drag a little as there’s a sense of inevitability rather than suspense. If you’re looking for a heart-thumping thriller then I suggest you go elsewhere but if you can spare some time to relax and view the world from a different perspective I doubt you’ll be disappointed. For your investment you should get a few laughs, some intelligent food for thought, possibly a tear or two and, I can virtually guarantee this, you’ll feel better when you finish than you did when you started.
My rating 4/5