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The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel


The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. The New York Times Book Review has noted, “As always in Alexander McCall Smith’s gentle celebrations of life in this arid patch of southern Africa, the best moments are the smallest.” Discuss how this is true. Does your reading of these novels inspire you to appreciate the small, precious moments and things in your own life?

2. Why is Precious Ramotswe so attached to her little white van, even after it is long gone? What is it about certain physical objects for us? Do you have one particular object, large or small, that you are especially attached to? Why? Is it the object itself that you cling to or is it to the memories that you have associated with it?

3. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is always referred to as “that fine man” or “that excellent man, proprietor of Tloweng Road Speedy Motors.” What makes him fine and excellent? And why is his job always attached to his name, even by his wife?

4. How much importance do you put on efficiency? Why does Mma Ramotswe think that, “if efficiency were the only value in this life, then we would be content to eat bland, but nutritious food everyday.” (p. 5) What other values are equally, if not more important in this life—in work and in play?

5. It is very clear, over the course of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, that “Charlie (Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s apprentice) did not follow the old Botswana ways.” (p. 19) What does this mean? What are the “old Botswana ways”? Who does follow them?

6. In The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Mma Ramotswe says, “Each of us had something that made it easier to continue in a world that sometimes, just sometimes, was not as we might wish it to be.” (p. 54) What is that you need to get your mind off anxieties or problems in your own life—“a drive in the country . . . a quiet cup of tea”? Why do we all need these small pleasures to release us from looming problems and issues?

7. Mma Ramotswe remembers witnessing with her father a group of birds being attacked by a snake, and he encouraged her not to do anything. Why? What lesson was he teaching young Precious?

8. Mma Ramotswe periodically quotes from Clovis Anderson’s The Principles of Private Detection. One she particular believes in and repeats is “the more you listen, the more you learn” (p. 110). What is it about this book and the pithy sayings it offers that appeals to Mma Ramotswe in moments of indecision? Do you have a book you turn to when you need reassurance or pleasure?

9. There is much talk of beef stews and pumpkins and cake in these novels, and in one instance in The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Mma Ramotswe thinks about dinner and says, “Life was very full.” Describe some of the dishes you remember in the novel.

10. Do you think Mma Ramotswe makes the right decision to turn to Mpho’s mother when the little boy shares the secret of the crime he committed? What would you have done in this predicament?

11. Discussions about the differences between men and women come up quite a bit in the novels, and in this novel in particular. What are some of the stereotypes that various characters discuss? Do you agree with them?

12. Mma Ramotswe appreciates the people in her life: her husband, her assistant detective/friend, her father. “That we have the people we have in this life, rather than others, is miraculous, she thought, a miraculous gift.” Discuss the people in your life that you are most thankful for and why.

13. Discuss how Grace Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe react differently to Charlie and his problem. Why is Grace more judgmental that her boss? Why do you think Mma Ramotswe is more successful in dealing with Charlie?

14. Mma Ramotswe appreciates the people in her life: her husband, her assistant detective/friend, her father. “That we have the people we have in this life, rather than others, is miraculous, she thought, a miraculous gift.” Discuss the people in your life that you are most thankful for and why.

15. The Christian Science Monitor has written that in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, “Kindness is paramount.” Do you agree with this? And what do you think Alexander McCall Smith is trying to promote by writing these “kind” novels?

16. Discuss the titles of each of the chapters and the title of the book. What do these offer to the experience of reading the novel? Do you think Alexander McCall Smith has fun coming up with these titles?

17. Mma Ramotswe walks around her garden every morning and evening, noticing the flowers, trees, and birds. She also revels in the beauty of the Botswana countryside. Discuss the importance of nature in this novel.

18. Alexander McCall Smith is clearly a master wordsmith. Why do you think he chooses to use relatively simple language and plot lines in his novels? How does the language and rhythm correspond to the message of the novels? Connect this to one of the final sentences of the novel, “simple questions—and simple answers—were what we needed in life.” What is Alexander McCall Smith saying about life?

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Denise Morland, April 19, 2011 (view all comments by Denise Morland)
It is amazing to me that after 12 books in the series Alexander McCall Smith can still keep the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency fresh and interesting, and he does!

In Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party the big event is, of course, the long awaited wedding of Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti. There is so much to plan and Mma Makutsi is suffering from wedding jitters. Could the upheaval be the reason why both Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe seem to be hallucinating all the sudden? Because surely they aren't really seeing the ghost of the little white van? Add in the usual shenanigans from Charlie, the apprentice mechanic who has definitely stepped too far over the line this time and a client whose cattle are being horrifically wounded in the middle of the night and Mma Ramotswe will need to keep her wits about her!

Alexander McCall Smith delivers all the charm, humor, and generosity you would expect in Saturday Big Tent Wedding. Mma Ramotswe is her usual wise self dispensing wisdom that seems personally relevant even though it comes from the edge of the Kalahari Desert. It was nice to see that the characters continue to grow and develop. Many of her cases in this book offer more ambiguity than usual and Mma Ramotswe must be content with solutions that are less than the truth. Charlie, the apprentice mechanic, makes more of an appearance in this book. I enjoyed getting to know a side character better and I hope he continues to develop in future installments. In the end it is always a great source of comfort to spend some time with Mma Ramotswe and her family. A very satisfying and entertaining book!
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Product Details

Mccall Smith, Alexander
Pantheon Books
Smith, Helen
McCall Smith, Alexander
Smith, Alexander McCall
Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Mystery-A to Z
fiction;mystery;botswana;africa;detective;humor;precious ramotswe;crime;no. 1 ladies detective agency;cozy mystery;cattle;wedding;novel;mma ramotswe;detective fiction;relationships;21st century;family;female detective
General Fiction
Edition Description:
Trade paper
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.5 x 6.3 x .95 in 1.0188 lb

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$24.95 In Stock
Product details 208 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780307378392 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , “Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one . . . Smith is at the very least a minor phenomenon.”—Times (UK)

After Alison Temple discovers that her husband is cheating on her, she does what any jilted woman would do—she spray paints a nasty message for him on her wedding dress and takes a job with the detective firm that found him out. Being a researcher at the all-female Fitzgeralds Bureau of Investigation in London is certainly a change of pace from her previous life, especially considering the characters Alison meets in the line of duty. There is her boss, the estimable Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alisons eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbor; and last, but not least, her psychic postman.

Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, Alison Wonderland is a literary novel about a memorable heroine coping with the everyday complexities of modern life.

“A fantastical Thelma and Louise meets Agatha Christie adventure story. The dialogue is smart and the deadpan humor is perfectly judged.”—The List (UK)

"Synopsis" by , THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY - Book 12

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.

At a remote cattle post south of Gaborone two cows have been killed, and Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s No. 1 Lady Detective, is asked to investigate by a rather frightened and furtive gentleman. It is an intriguing problem with plenty of suspects—including, surprisingly, her own client.


To complicate matters, Mma Ramotswe is haunted by a vision of her dear old white van, and Grace Makutsi witnesses it as well. Is it the ghost of her old friend, or has it risen from the junkyard?  In the meantime, one of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s apprentices may have gotten a girl pregnant and, under pressure to marry her, has run away. Naturally, it is up to Precious to help sort things out. Add to the mix Violet Sephotho’s newly launched run for the Botswana Parliament and a pair of perfect wedding shoes—will wedding bells finally ring for Phuti Radiphuti and Grace Makutsi?—and we have a charming and delightful tale in the inimitable style of Alexander McCall Smith.

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