Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Authors
Books
Features
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
  • Written by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780307277473
  • Our Price: $14.95
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Buy now from Random House

  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
  • Written by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307378101
  • Our Price: $9.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook

A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (10)

Written by Alexander McCall SmithAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Alexander McCall Smith

eBook

List Price: $9.99

eBook

On Sale: April 21, 2009
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-307-37810-1
Published by : Anchor Knopf
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built Cover

Bookmark,
Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
  • Email this page - Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
  • Print this page - Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY - Book 10

Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective.  In this charming series, Mma  Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, and good humor—not to mention help from her loyal assistant, Grace Makutsi, and the occasional cup of tea. 

In this latest installment in the endlessly entertaining series, Precious Ramotswe faces problems both personal and professional.
 
The first is the potential demise of an old friend, her tiny white van. Recently, it has developed a rather troubling knock, but she dare not consult the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni for fear he may condemn the vehicle.  Meanwhile, her talented assistant Mma Makutsi is plagued by the reappearance of her nemesis, Violet Sephotho, who has taken a job at the Double Comfort Furniture store whose proprietor is none other than Phuti Radiphuti, Mma Makutsi’s fiancé.  Finally, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has been hired to explain the unexpected losing streak of a local football club, the Kalahari Swoopers.  But with Mma Ramotswe on the case, it seems certain that everything will be resolved satisfactorily.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Mr. Molofololo

Traditionally built people may not look as if they are great walkers, but there was a time when Precious Ramotswe walked four miles a day. As a girl in Mochudi, all those years ago, a pupil at the school that looked down over the sprawling village below, she went to her lessons every morning on foot, joining the trickle of children that made its way up the hill, the girls in blue tunics, the boys in khaki shirts and shorts, like little soldiers. The journey from the house where she lived with her father and the older cousin who looked after her took all of an hour, except, of course, when she was lucky and managed to ride on the mule-drawn water cart that occasionally passed that way. The driver of this cart, with whom her father had worked in the gold mines as a young man, knew who she was and always slowed down to allow her to clamber up on the driver’s seat beside him.

Other children would watch enviously and try to wave down the water cart. “I cannot carry all Botswana,” said the driver. “If I gave all you children a ride on my cart, then my poor mules would die. Their hearts would burst. I cannot allow that.”

“But you have Precious up there!” called out the boys. “Why is she so special?”

The driver looked at Precious and winked. “Tell them why you are special, Precious. Explain it to them.”

The young Mma Ramotswe, barely eight, was overwhelmed by embarrassment.

“But I am not special. I am just a girl.”

“You are the daughter of Obed Ramotswe,” said the driver. “He is a great man. That is why you are riding up here.”

He was right, of course—at least in what he said about Obed Ramotswe, who was, by any standards, a fine man. At that age, Precious had only a faint inkling of what her father stood for; later on, as a young woman, she would come to understand what it was to be the daughter of Obed Ramotswe. But in those days, on the way to school, whether riding in state on the water cart or walking along the side of that dusty road with her friends, she had school to think about, with its lessons on so many subjects—the history of Botswana, from the beginning, when it was known as Khama’s country, across the plains of which great lions walked, to the emergence of the new Botswana, then still a chrysalis in a dangerous world; writing lessons, with the letters of the alphabet being described in white chalk on an ancient blackboard, all whirls and loops; arithmetic, with its puzzling multiplication tables that needed to be learned by heart—when there was so much else that the heart had to learn.

The water cart, of course, did not pass very often, and so on most days there was a long trudge to school and a long walk back. Some children had an even greater journey; in one class there was a boy who walked seven miles there and seven miles back, even in the hottest of months, when the sun came down upon Botswana like a pounding fist, when the cattle huddled together under the umbrella shade of the acacia trees, not daring to wander off in search of what scraps of grass remained. This boy thought nothing of his daily journey; this is what you did if you wanted to go to school to learn the things that your parents had never had the chance to learn. And you did not complain, even if during the rainy season you might narrowly escape being struck by lightning or being washed away by the torrents that rose in the previously dry watercourses. You did not complain in that Botswana.

Now, of course, it was different, and it was the contemplation of these differences that made Mma Ramotswe think about walking again.

“We are becoming lazy, Mma Ramotswe,” said Mma Makutsi one afternoon, as they sipped their afternoon cup of red bush tea in the offices of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. “Have you noticed? We are becoming lazy.”

Mma Ramotswe frowned. There were times when Mma Makutsi made statements that suffered from that classic flaw of all generalisations—they were just too general. This observation, it seemed to her, could be such a remark.

“Do you mean that you and I are becoming lazy?” she asked her assistant. “If you do, then I do not think that’s right, Mma Makutsi. Take this morning, for instance. We finished that report on security at the loan office. And we wrote a lot of letters. Six, seven, I think. That is not being lazy.”

Mma Makutsi raised a hand in protest. “No, Mma, I did not mean that. I did not mean to say that you and I are becoming lazy. Or not specially lazy. I am talking about everybody.”

Mma Ramotswe raised an eyebrow. “The whole of Botswana?”

Mma Makutsi nodded. “Yes, the whole country. And it’s not just Botswana, Mma. We are no worse than anybody else. In fact, I am sure that there are many much lazier countries elsewhere. What I really meant was that people in general are becoming lazy.”

Mma Ramotswe, who had been prepared to defend Botswana against Mma Makutsi’s accusations, relaxed. If the remark was about people in general, and not just about the residents of Gaborone, then Mma Makutsi’s theory could at least be heard out. “Why do you say that people are becoming lazy, Mma?” she asked.

Mma Makutsi glanced through the half-open door that led from the agency into the garage. On the other side of the workshop, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni was showing his two apprentices an engine part. “You see those two boys out there?” she said. “Charlie and . . .”

“Fanwell,” supplied Mma Ramotswe. “We must start using his name. It is not kind to be forgetting it all the time.”

“Yes, Charlie and . . . Fanwell,” said Mma Makutsi. “It is a stupid name, though, don’t you think, Mma? Why would anybody be called Fanwell?”

Mma Ramotswe could not let this pass. Mma Makutsi was too hard on the two apprentices, particularly on the older one, Charlie. Words had passed between them more than once, including on the occasion when Charlie had called Mma Makutsi a warthog and made disparaging references to her large glasses. It had been quite wrong of him, and Mma Ramotswe had made that plain, but she had also acknowledged that he had been provoked. “They are young men,” she had said to Mma Makutsi. “That is what young men are like, Mma. Their heads are full of loud music and thoughts of girls. Imagine walking around with all that nonsense in your head.”

That had been said in defence of Charlie; now it was necessary to say something for Fanwell. It was wrong of Mma Makutsi, she thought, to poke fun at Fanwell’s name. “Why is anybody called anything, Mma Makutsi? That boy cannot help it. It is the parents who give children stupid names. It is the fault of the parents.”

“But Fanwell, Mma Ramotswe? What a silly name. Why did they not call him Fanbelt? That would be a good name for an apprentice mechanic, wouldn’t it? Hah! Fanbelt. That would be very funny.”

“No, Mma Makutsi,” said Mma Ramotswe. “We must not make fun of people’s names. There are some who think that your own name, Grace, is a strange name. I do not think that, of course. But there are probably people like that.”

Mma Makutsi was dismissive. “Then they are very foolish,” she said. “They should know better.”

“And that is what Fanwell himself would probably say about anybody who laughed at his name,” Mma Ramotswe pointed out.

Mma Makutsi had to agree with this, even if reluctantly. She and Mma Ramotswe were fortunate, with their reasonably straightforward names of Grace and Precious, respectively; she had contemporaries who were not so fortunate and had been saddled by their parents with names that were frankly ridiculous. One boy she had known at school had borne a Setswana name which meant Look out, the police have arrived. The poor boy had been the object of derision amongst his classmates and had tried, unsuccessfully, to change the name by which he was known. But names, like false allegations, stick, and he had gone through life with this unfortunate burden, reminded of it every time he had to give details for an official form; looking away so that the person examining the form could be given the opportunity to smile, which they all did.

“Even if their names are not their fault,” said Mma Makutsi, “the way those boys behave is their fault, Mma. There can be no doubt about that. And those boys are very lazy, Mma. They are examples of what I am talking about.”

She looked sternly at Mma Ramotswe, as if challenging her employer to contradict her. Mma Ramotswe did not rise to the bait; Mma Makutsi was rather assertive—and she admired the younger woman for that—but it did not help, she had decided, to engage with her too much when she was in mid-theory. It was best to let people have their say, she always felt; then, when they had finished, and had possibly run out of breath, one could always lodge a mild objection to what had been said before.

Mma Makutsi peered in the direction of the garage and lowered her voice. “Have you ever seen those two young men walk- ing?” she asked.

Mma Ramotswe frowned. Of course she had seen the apprentices walking; they walked about the garage, they came into the office to collect their tea, they walked to the tree under which Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s truck was parked. She pointed this out to Mma Makutsi, gently enough, but not so mildly as to prevent a firm refutation from the other side of the room.

“Not that sort of walking, Mma,” said Mma Makutsi. “Anybody can walk across a room or round a garage. Anybody, Mma. Even those two lazy young men. The sort of walking I’m talking about is walking from one place to another. Walking to work. Walking from the middle of town to the National Stadium. Walking from Kgale Siding to Gaborone. That sort of walking.”

“Those are not short walks,” said Mma Ramotswe. “Although it would not take too long, I think, to get from the middle of town to the Stadium. Perhaps twenty-five minutes if it was not too hot.”

Mma Makutsi sniffed. “How can we tell?” she asked. “These days nobody would know how long it takes to walk anywhere because we have all stopped walking, Mma. We know how long it takes to drive. We know how long a minibus takes. But we do not know how long it takes to walk.”

Mma Ramotswe was silent as she thought about this. She had long understood that one of the features of Mma Makutsi’s speeches was that there was often a grain of truth in them, and sometimes even more than that.

“And here’s another thing, Mma Ramotswe,” Mma Makutsi continued. “Have you heard of evolution? Well, what will happen if we all carry on being lazy like this and drive everywhere? I can tell you, Mma. We shall start to grow wheels. That is what evolution is all about.”


From the Hardcover edition.
Alexander McCall Smith

About Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith - Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Photo © Michael Lionstar

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the beloved, bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is also the author of numerous children’s books. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit his website at www.alexandermccallsmith.com.

Praise

Praise

“As wise and lovely as ever.”—USA Today
 
“[McCall Smith] is a master. . . . There's beauty and revelation of one kind or another woven expertly into every line.”—Christian Science Monitor 
 
“Alexander McCall Smith is a vivid observer and an elegant writer. . . . Like the best traditions, this series is one we hope will endure.”
The Plain Dealer
 
“It’s time for celebration. . . . McCall Smith has done it again.”
The Washington Times

Tea-time continues McCall Smith’s heartwarming focus on quotidian mysteries and small victories.”—Times-Picayune
 
"There is no end to the pleasure that may be extracted from these books." —The New York Times Book Review
 
“What a treat to discover. . . . Brims with good humor and compassion.” —Entertainment Weekly


 
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

“As wise and lovely as ever.” —USA Today
 
The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, the latest installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s beloved series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

About the Guide

Mma Ramotswe’s ever-ready tiny white van has recently developed a rather disturbing noise.  Of course, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni—her estimable husband and one of Botswana’s most talented mechanics—is the man to turn to for help.  But Precious suspects he might simply send the tiny white van to the junkyard and replace it with something more modern.  Can she find a way to save her old friend?
        
In the meantime, Mma Makutsi discovers that her old rival Violet Sephotho, who could not have gotten more than 50 percent on her typing final at the Botswana Secretarial College, has set her sights on none other than Mma Makutsi’s fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti.  Can Mma Ramotswe’s intuition save the day?  Finally, the proprietor of a local football team has enlisted the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to help explain its dreadful losing streak.  The owner of the team is convinced he has a traitor in his midst.  But how is Mma Ramotswe, who has never seen a football match in her life, going to discern who is throwing the game?  Help, it turns out, may come from an unexpected quarter. 

About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is also the author of the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland

Discussion Guides

1. Grace pokes fun at Fanwell’s name, and says that he and Charlie, apprentice mechanics in the garage, are lazy. What aspect of Grace’s character is revealed in this conversation [pp. 6–7]? How does Mma Ramotswe deal with temperamental differences between herself and her assistant?

2. As she said in The Miracle at Speedy Motors, “I am a lady first and then I am a detective. So I just do the things which we ladies know how to do—I talk to people and find out what has happened. Then I try to solve the problems in people's lives. That is all I do.”  Why does the suspicion presented by Mr. Molofololo—that someone on his football team is throwing games—cause a real difficulty for Mma Ramotswe in solving the case?

3. How does visiting Fanwell’s home provoke Mma Ramotswe’s sympathy [pp. 63–72]?  Why does she conclude, “until you dig deeper, and listen … you know only a tiny part of the goodness of the human heart” [p. 72]?

4. Mma Tafa’s ambition for her husband, Big Man, to be captain of the football team makes Mma Ramotswe wonder whether Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni nursed any hidden, unfulfilled desires.  She thinks, “when we dismiss or deny the hopes of others … we forget that they, like us, have only one chance in this life” [p. 130].  If Mma Ramotswe’s compassionate insights were collected, would they comprise a dependable guide to an ethical life?

5. Mma Ramotswe has to laugh when she thinks of the tiny goalkeeper, Big Man Tafa, dancing with his wife [pp. 130–3].  What other moments cause laughter in the story? How would you describe Mma Ramotswe’s sense of humor?

6. Mma Makutsi’s purchase of new shoes gives her “that extraordinary feeling of renewal that an exciting purchase can bring,” but her old shoes silently make their resentment known [pp. 146–7].  If you have read Blue Shoes and Happiness, how does this moment recall an earlier episode where Grace buys a pair of new shoes?

7. What qualities make Precious Ramotswe such an unusual person?  How would you describe the quality of her insight or wisdom?  To her husband, she was the person “who stood for kindness and generosity and understanding; for a country of which he was so proud; who stood for Africa and all the love that Africa contained” [pp. 151-52].  Do you find her inspirational, and if so how can she been seen as a model for behavior in everyday life?

8. Why does Violet Sephotho make a direct play for Phuti Radiphuti?  Does it appear that she holds a grudge against Grace?  Does the conversation on pp. 45-47 suggest that Grace’s physical imperfections might present a serious cause for anxiety regarding Phuti’s commitment to her?

9. Why is Mma Ramotswe’s tiny white van so beloved?  What does it signify for her?  Having finally passed beyond the hope of repair, it was towed away by a man who bought it for spare parts [p. 172].  Do you see any hope for its revival in future episodes?

10. Mma Ramotswe often thinks of her father, Obed Ramotswe: “She would give anything—anything—to have her father back with her, just for a day, so that she could tell him about how her life had been and how she owed everything to him and to his goodness to her” [p. 183].  It is often said that gratitude is a spiritual emotion.  Why is gratitude such an important emotion in these books?

11. Mma Ramotswe says to Mma Makutsi, “Most of all I am grateful to you for being my friend … That is the best thing that anybody can be to anybody else—a friend” [p. 185].  What provokes these feelings of gratitude?  How is the “sense of dreadful imminence, [the] rawness” that Precious feels, resolved on page 186?  Discuss how, with scenes like this one, the series addresses small but important moments of life.

12. Puso provides the insight that Mma Ramotswe was missing in her investigation of the football team’s troubles.  What is the “sudden, blinding insight that Puso had triggered” [p. 207]?  Does it seem likely that Mr. Molofololo will learn what he needs to learn about himself and about his players [pp. 208–09]?

13. In most detective fiction, readers seek the identity of the criminal or the resolution of a mystery. Who are the criminals, and what is the mystery, in Tea Time for the Traditionally Built? How does Mma Ramotswe differ from most fictional detectives? How do plot and pace differ, and what unique features distinguish The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series from conventional mystery novels?

14. What are Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi celebrating with their lunch at the end of the novel? How does the fact that rain is coming add to the sense of a happy ending?

15. A typographic design, repeating the word Africa, follows the novel’s final sentence.  How does this affect your reading of the ending, and what emotions does it express?



(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

Suggested Readings

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Kate Atkinson, Case Histories; J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace; Nuruddin Farah, Gifts; Alexandra Fuller, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight; Nadine Gordimer, Six Feet of the Country; Bessie Head, When Rain Clouds Gather; P. D. James, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman; J. Nozipo Maraire, Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter; Nadine Gordimer, Telling Tales; Norman Rush, Mating; Wole Soyinka, Aké: The Years of Childhood.

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: