Alexander McCall Smith writes with a wry sense of humour, an eye for people and their peculiarities, a warmhearted wisdom, and a sense of place, whether he's describing Botswana or Edinburgh. His books are not a hard read, more a gentle meander. They suit me just fine!
Here's a description of heaven, and the heavens, from the latest book in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Not a Christian vision of heaven, but beautiful nonetheless.
It was a good time for sitting together, Mma Ramotswer felt, and it was not necessary to say anything. That evening, the sky was all but white with stars, filled with acres and acres of constellations, right down to the horizon. She had learned the names of some of these clusters when she was younger, but had forgotten most of them now, apart from the Southern Cross, which could be seen hanging over the sky towards Lobatse, a pointer to the distant Cape and its cold waters. And the Milky Way was there too - she had always been able to identify that, like a swirl of milk in an ocean of dark tea. As a girl she had imagined the Milky Way was the curtain of heaven, a notion she had been sorry to abandon as she had grown up. But she would not abandon a belief in heaven itself, wherever that might be, because she felt that if she gave that up then there would be very little left. Heaven may not turn out to be the place of her imagining, she conceded - the place envisaged in the old Botswana stories, a place inhabited by gentle white cattle, with sweet breath - but it would surely be something not too unlike that, at least in the way it felt; a place where late people would be given all that they had lacked on this earth - those who had had nothing would find they had everything the human heart could desire.
From Alexander McCall Smith The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party pages 135-136.