I think we might all be forgiven for thinking that the world at the moment is a somewhat difficult place. And there are many, I suspect, who would feel that is putting it mildly! This year has not been the most peaceful year for many, but – and this is an important but – it is important to remind oneself that the world has often experienced such periods – and got through them in one way or another. Darkness may close in, but there are always pinpricks of light that persist. And then these glimmerings grow brighter and dispel the gloom. That happens – it’s not just wishful thinking.
For me, a constant beacon is a woman who lives in Botswana, who runs a small business called The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and into whose company I invite myself each year. That is Precious Ramotswe, and when I sit down at my desk each January and prepare to chronicle the latest developments in her life, she never fails to come to my mind, smiling with the warmth that she possesses in such abundance, ready to tell me of the events, big and small, that have been taking place in that little office on the edge of Gaborone in that beautiful, lovely country, Botswana. And this year has been no exception. Amidst all the wars and rumors of wars, amidst all the conflict and confrontation, Mma Ramotswe’s presence reminds me that decency and kindness can prevail: they can, and we must try to ensure that they will, if only we open our hearts to the message that Mma Ramotswe gently and discreetly espouses.
This year the result of our conversation (conducted over numerous cups of redbush tea) is the latest book in the series – volume 24. The book is called From a Far and Lovely Country, and it is now available. In it, we are back in Gaborone with our friends, and Mma Ramotswe is called upon to help an American woman discover that bit of Botswana that is somewhere there in her history. Other things happen, of course: there is a misunderstanding over a red dress – of the wrong size – and there is a challenging case for Charlie to investigate – one that involves a misbehaving schoolteacher. In general, teachers behave well – except for those who do not. But even for those, Mma Ramotswe has an understanding word.
I hope that you will join Mma Ramotswe and her friends in this new book. I loved writing it. It made me feel much happier. I hope it may do the same for you.
With my very warmest wishes,
Alexander McCall Smith
From a Far and Lovely Country is available in hardback now from all good bookshops and online book retailers.