Saturday, May 20, 2006

Blue Shoes and Happiness (and More)

Blue Shoes and Happinessis the latest from Alexander McCall Smith. My darling husband borrowed it for me from a colleague (so this is the first one I've read in hardback, incidentally).

It feels a bit repetitive to gush about how much I enjoy these books, so I was going to say that I first found myself a little disappointed in this one. I think I was a little surprised that there weren't more references to stuff that has already happened, like the adopted children and the Kalahari Typing School (note to self: you haven't read that one). But then I found myself backtracking on that sentiment, since this book is a little more introspective than the others. Just a little, but it seems like the theme is a different - the action takes place as much on the inside as on the outside. And there are still beautiful passages (that yes, make me cry), such as this one:
She thought of her father, the Daddy as she called him, every day. And when she had those dreams at night, he was there, as if he had never died, although she knew, even in the dream, that he had. One day she would join him, she knew, whatever people said about how we came to an end when we took our last breath. Some people mocked you if you said that you joined others when your time came. Well, they could laugh, those clever people, but we surely had to hope, and a life without hope was no life: it was a sky without stars, a landscape of sorrow and emptiness. If she thought that she would never again see Obed Ramotswe, then it would make her shiver with loneliness. [...] And there was somebody else she would see one day, she hoped - her baby who had died, that small child with its fingers that had grasped so tightly around hers, whose breathing was so quiet, like the sound of the breeze in the acacia trees on an almost-still day, a tiny sound. She knew that her baby was with the late children in whatever place it was that the late children went, somewhere over there, beyond the Kalahari, where the gentle white cattle allowed the children to ride on their backs. And when the late mothers came, the children would flock to them and they would call to them and take them in their arms. That was what she hoped, and it was a hope worth having, she felt.

Oh Lord, that has me in tears again. On to something funnier.

I also reread Dorothy Sayers' Strong Poison, which is still brilliant. Got so bitten that I'm reading Unnatural Death now. So a quote from the latter:

'I wish you wouldn't talk so much', complained his friend. 'And how about all those typewritten reports? Are you turning philantropist in your old age?'

'No - no,' said Wimsey, rather hurriedly hailing a taxi. 'Tell you about that later. Little private pogrom of my own - Insurance against the Socialist Revolution - when it comes. "What did you do with your great wealth, comrade?" "I bought First Editions." "Aristocrat! à la lanterne!" "Stay, spare me! I took proceedings against 500 moneylenders who oppressed the workers." "Citizen, you have done well. We will spare your life. You shall be promoted to cleaning the sewers." Voilà! We must move with the times. Citizen taxi-driver, take me to the British Museum. Can I drop you anywhere? No? So long. I am going to collate a 12th-century manuscript of Tristan, whole the old order lasts.'

I just realised typing that (whew!) that it might just be several slurs against Jews. The words pogrom and moneylenders in combination... Which would not be funny at all. But I never saw it like that before, maybe largely because I have never viewed DLS as an antisemite. As a matter of fact, in Strong Poison, Lord Peter's friend Freddy Arbuthnot announces his engagement to a Jewish girl, and the whole thing has a anti-antisemitic feel to it. Hm. Must think about that some more.

Anyway, Eurovision in 10 minutes now!

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