Tag-Archive for ◊ CBE ◊

Author:
• Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Rose Tremain was born Rosemary Jane Thomson in London in 1943. She attended Frances Holland School from 1949 to 1954, then Crofton Grange School from 1954 to 1961. Afterwards she studied at The Sorbonne in Paris for one year, where she took a diploma in the “Cours de Civilisation française”.

She graduated from the University of East Anglia with a B.A. (honours) Degree in English in 1967 and taught Creative writing from 1988 to 1995 in the University of East Anglia.

Rose Tremain has won several awards for her books. She has written several novels, short-story collections and a number of radio and television plays. She was chosen as one of the twenty “Best Young British Novelists” in a promotion by the literary magazine Granta published in 1983. She was a judge for The Booker Prize for Fiction in 1988 and in 2000. She reviews and broadcasts on a regular basis for the press and radio.

The Road Home was short-listed for the 2007 Costa Novel Award and won the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Before writing The Road Home, Rose Tremain undertook extensive reading and researching about post 1989 Eastern European society. She also benefited from interviewing Polish field-workers in Suffolk.

Rose Tremain has been divorced twice and now lives with her companion, Richard Holmes, the biographer, between Norfolk and London. She has one daughter from her first marriage in 1972 who became an actress.

Rose Tremain was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2007.

The setting of The Road Home is contemporary London. The main character is a forty-two-year-old East European called Lev, from an unnamed ex Eastern bloc republic. He is an unemployed, lumberyard worker after his sawmill closed due to lack of wood and a bereaved widower since his young wife Marina died of leukaemia. In desperation he decides to travel for many hours by bus from his rural village, Auror, to reach London in order to find a job which will provide a humble living for his impoverished old mother and his five-year-old daughter who remains back home.

In The Road Home, the author tackles a present reality issue, a good insight into the problem of the Eastern European labourers who migrate to the Western world and the harsh repelling reality they face. They feel unwelcome by the English and have to withstand a great deal of hardship in order to survive and supply means of subsistence to their families.

The author succeeds in humanising, with compassionate understanding, the problem concerning the invasion of Eastern European workers, by portraying a friendly and sincere Lev, who like any human being has his good qualities, his weaknesses and his misdeeds. He is not just a part of an unjust and cold statistic of the unpopular foreign invader-workers we read about. He is described in a sympathetic, likeable way.

He is handsome, he is kind, sincere and feels for others. Lev is homesick; he is certain that he doesn’t belong to this Western society he lives in, but he has to endure his affliction courageously in order to reach the target he has set himself.

The story is engaging, poignant at times, but thanks to Christy, Lev’s drunken Irish, light-hearted landlord and Rudi, Lev’s best friend and compatriot, who stayed back home, the reader can enjoy some comic relief.

An easy to read, emotionally rich and entertaining novel while at the same time thought provoking. Despite the nostalgia and melancholy of some chapters, it’s an optimistic story full of hope.

Through Lev’s eyes, we see the materialistic world that he can’t fully understand and we see all the decadence of the West, depicted in English society : The portrayal of old people left unvisited by their children in old people’s homes, the well-to-do snobs who cheer with approval a play that makes a banality out of incestuous-paedophilia simulation, or the amount of waste in a capitalist country.

Not really an attractive sight. Rose Tremain says in one of her interviews : “It’s the culture we swim in… I do think for an outsider’s eye it does look extremely vulgar and shallow…More now than it ever has.”

Author:
• Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Alexander McCall Smith was born to a Scottish family in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) in 1948, the youngest of four children. His father worked in Rhodesia as a public prosecutor, in what was then a British colony. His mother wrote a number of unpublished manuscripts. After finishing school in Rhodesia, McCall Smith moved to Scotland to study Law at Edinburgh University.

After graduating, he worked as a professor in Scotland,then returned to Botswana to teach law at the University that he managed to create.

Alexander McCall Smith is an expert on genetics, he held roles in a number of national and international Bioethics Commission of UNESCO. He retired as a professor of medical law at Edinburgh University in 2005 due to his belated success as a writer. His other commitments could not be pursued because he preferred to dedicate his time to writing books and playing bassoon in an amateur orchestra that he co-founded in 1995, called “The Really Terrible Orchestra”. He currently lives in Edinburgh with Dr. Elisabeth Parry whom he married in 1982 and their two daughters.

McCall Smith twice received the Booker Prize for The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in 1998 and in 2004 he was named “Author of the Year” by the Booksellers Association and British Book Awards. In 2006 he was appointed a CBE -Commander of the Order of the British Empire- for services to literature and was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law in Edinburgh in 2007.

Alexander McCall Smith is a prolific and diverse writer; he produced an abundant and varied number of books ranging from children tales to picture books to legal text books to novels. But he became internationally known through his Botswana detective series first published in1998. The series in English sold millions of copies round the world and was translated into many languages. It was made into a television series and broadcast on BBC1 in 2008.

Tears of the Giraffe published in 2000 is the second Botswana detective story taken from the author’s Botswana series of nine novels. The first was The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Then followed Morality of Beautiful Girls in 2001, The Kalahari Typing School for Men 2001, The Full Cupboard of Life 2003, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies 2004, Blue Shoes and Happiness 2006, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive 2007, The Miracle of Speedy Motors 2008.

McCall Smith was born and raised in Africa, which helped him in his writing to successfully convey the essence of the African landscape, culture and society in its real day-to-day life and in all its complexity especially between the old and the new traditions and values. He doesn’t omit to describe, through his well developed and uncomplicated characters, the genuine Botswanan’s sense of courtesy and dignity which impressed him when he lived there and which stand out more in his books than the detective stories.

His style of writing is clear, passionate, charming and warm hearted which make his novels very popular even in Botswana where people liked the way the author portrayed their world. That is because they probably felt that, despite being a foreigner, he understood deeply the Botswanan’s nature.

Precious Ramotswe reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s miss Marple, is the star of the series, she owns the first female private detective agency in Botswana and probably in the whole of Africa. She deals with problems related to human lives more than serious crimes. An American mother who missed her son in a commune on the outskirts of the Kalahari desert ten years ago, seeks out Mma Ramotswe’s help to discover how and why her son died.

Mma Ramotswe, being kind and having lost a child in the past, accepts the sterile case out of compassion. The second case, a butcher who wants to know if his wife is cheating on him. The detective gives the simple case to her, now promoted secretary to the job of assistant, to investigate. Makutsi discovers that the wife has been cheating on her husband and that their son is not his. The moral issue arises: is it not better to protect an adulterer wife to avoid greater damage to the son’s future? There follows the debate between Mma Ramotswe and Makutsi over a cup of bush tea, about doing wrong in order to attain the right outcome.

Precious Ramotswe was not trained for detective work, yet she is successful because she relies mainly on her accurate intuition, her intelligence and wisdom and also on her valuable Principles of Private Detection manual. She is an old fashioned lady with old fashioned principles, just like the two other main, endearing characters in the book, her kind fiancé Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, the master mechanic of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and her trustworthy secretary/assistant Mma Makutsi.

The deep and detailed description of the main characters reveals a very positive portrait of the Botswanan people. They are hospitable, compassionate and value genuine love, taking their commitments seriously.

The author reveals to the readers at the end of the novel the meaning of its poetic title, when Ramotswe solves the mystery of the dead American son and offers the mother a traditional Botswana basket, woven with the giraffes’ tears; the only present a giraffe can offer.

In one of his interviews Smith admits that when he wrote the first book of the series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, he became so fond of the character of Precious Ramotswe that he could not let her go.

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