After the literary rollercoaster I've been on for the past couple of weeks, Alexander McCall Smith's newest instalment in his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series wasn't just balm for my soul. It was like somebody took my soul, slathered it with warm honey, then put it under a heat lamp for a nice, long nap.
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
by Alexander McCall Smith (#17)
And I read the large-print edition, no less. Have any of you other normal-sighted folks ever read a large-print book in bed? It's delicious. Sure, you have to turn the pages more frequently, but these days that's how I get my cardio workout. You can prop your book up on a pillow a couple of feet away from your face and let your arms sort of relax, rather than lying with your arms scrinched up like a tyrannosaurus to hold your book close to your eyes. Try it out for yourself, and like me, your new typeface motto may become "Go big or go home."
Anyway, a quick re-cap of my recent amazing adventures in literature: I had just come off McCall Smith's rather charming trilogy The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom, when I decided to jump into Dropped Threads 3, an anthology of non-fiction writing by women, which was hugely poignant and inspiring and insightful. All fired up, I got into my mental trebuchet and catapulted into Kazuo Ishiguro's latest novel, Never Let Me Go, from which I had to be revived with those little electrical paddle thingies that doctors seem to rely on so heavily on television. It was FANTASTIC, don't get me wrong, but it left me reeling. I needed some lighter reading fare, but it couldn't be pap. That would be like chasing fine wine with Rockaberry Cooler, and that's just not right.
Fortunately, I had In the Company of Cheerful Ladies waiting in the wings. And it was just what the non-paddle-wielding doctor ordered.
I've enjoyed the previous four books in the series (though they were a bit of an acquired taste, as I've written about elsewhere), but I feel that McCall Smith has really hit his stride with Cheerful Ladies. The novel doesn't just have the odd, gentle humour of the earlier books, nor does it just showcase the humane, generous morality of the series' main character, Precious Ramotswe. It's also the first of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books to give me a real glimpse into the inner lives of Mma Ramotswe and her assistant detective Mma Makutsi, as Mma Ramotse deals with a painful secret from her past and as Mma Makutsi finds love in a surprising place.
This book warmed my heart right down to its very last cockle, and now I can't wait to read the second-latest book in the series, The Full Cupboard of Life, which I managed to skip somehow. But I'm going to have to pace myself and space these stories further apart, because let me tell you, if the stack of unread books on my shelf is any indication, I'm going to have a tough row to hoe in the next couple of months. Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. John Banville's The Sea. Russell Banks's The Darling. And -- lord help me -- Stephen King's latest sleep-wrecker, Cell.
You know, just your typical light summer reading.