Summary and book reviews of The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

The Full Cupboard of Life

More from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

By Alexander McCall Smith

The Full Cupboard of Life
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2004,
    208 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2005,
    208 pages.

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About this Book

Book Summary

Here is the fifth novel in the internationally bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency hit series. Once again we are transported to Gaborone, capital city of Botswana, and into the world of Mma Ramotswe and her friends.

THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY.
FOR ALL CONFIDENTIAL MATTERS AND ENQUIRIES.
SATISFACTION GUARANTEED FOR ALL PARTIES.
UNDER PERSONAL MANAGEMENT.

Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni are still engaged, but with no immediate plans to get married. Mma Ramotswe wonders when a wedding date will be named, but she is anxious to avoid putting pressure on her fiancé. For indeed he has other things on his mind -- particularly a frightening request (involving a parachute jump) made by Mma Potokwani, the persuasive matron of the orphan farm.

Mma Ramotswe herself has weighty matters on her mind. She has been approached by a wealthy lady to check up on several suitors. Are these men interested in her or just her money? This may be difficult to find out, but it's just the kind of case Mma Ramotswe likes and she is, as we know, a very intuitive lady.

Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi -- plucky assistant detective and deputy manager of the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors garage -- is moving. Her entrepreneurial venture, the Kalahari Typing School for Men, is thriving and with this new income she has rented two rooms in a house. Her spare time is occupied with planning the move, the décor and her new life in a house with running water all to herself.

In the background of all this is Botswana, a country of empty spaces and echoing skies, a country so beautiful and entrancing that it breaks your heart. Mma Ramotswe has prepared the bush tea and is waiting for us to join her.

Chapter One
A Great Sadness among the Cars of Botswana

Precious Ramotswe was sitting at her desk at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone. From where she sat she could gaze out of the window, out beyond the acacia trees, over the grass and the scrub bush, to the hills in their blue haze of heat. It was such a noble country, and so wide, stretching for mile upon mile to brown horizons at the very edge of Africa. It was late summer, and there had been good rains that year. This was important, as good rains meant productive fields, and productive fields meant large, ripened pumpkins of the sort that traditionally built ladies like Mma Ramotswe so enjoyed eating. The yellow flesh of a pumpkin or a squash, boiled and then softened with a lump of butter (if one's budget stretched to that), was one of God's greatest gifts to Botswana. And it tasted so good, too, with a slice of fine Botswana beef, dripping in gravy.

Oh yes, God had given a great deal to Botswana, as she had...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Book

Alexander McCall Smith's The Full Cupboard of Life continues the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the remarkable proprietress of an unusual detective agency in Botswana. Mma Ramotswe begins to fret that she has been engaged to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni for a while now (in fact, through the first four books of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series —The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, and The Kalahari Typing School for Men) with no wedding date in sight. He, unfortunately, is preoccupied with other things, in particular, a frightening proposition from the bossy matron of the Orphan Farm. And, of course, there is always the day-to-day business of the detective agency to ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Oh joy! McCall Smith is back with another totally soft-boiled mystery set in Botswana. This, the fifth in the series, brings back all the key characters those familiar with the books already love - such as Mma Makutsi, secretary and assistant detective; Mma Potokwani, operator of the local 'orphan-farm'; and of course Mma Ramotswe's fiance, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni - Gaborone's best mechanic.

The first book in the series - 'The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency' was published in the UK in 1998 but didn't arrive in the USA until 2001, and unfortunately we're still lagging behind. This is the fifth in the series but in just a couple of months the 6th title will be released in the UK - 'In the Company of Cheerful Ladies' - so if you're in the USA and you're one of Mma Ramostwe's legion of fans and just can't wait you might want to pay a visit to Amazon.co.uk and order yourself a copy; and if you're reading this in the UK - lucky you!   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (576 words).

Media Reviews
The New York Times - Janet Maslin

The Full Cupboard of Life is by no means oppressively sweet, but it is committed to looking on life's sunny side. And its characters, like the one who watches a special mango ripen on a tree, have a primitivism that is as reductive as it is warm. At one point, someone suggests that How to Get 97 Percent would be an appealing title for a book. It's one that could easily be applied to Mr. Smith's big-hearted Botswanan stories.

Publishers Weekly

Precious Ramotswe is on the case again in this delightful fifth installment in the bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, this time assisting the self-made founder of a chain of hairdressing salons who wants to unearth the real intentions of her four suitors, each possibly more interested in her money than her heart.

Booklist - Bill Ott

The tremendous appeal of this delightful series comes from the unique manner in which Smith mixes the charm of both traditional and contemporary village cozies (from Miss Marple to the Maggody novels) with a comical Runyonesque formality of language and a grasp of human relations that is very like Jane Austen (Mma Ramotswe, in fact, has a lot of Emma in her).

Library Journal - Nicole A Cooke

With the charm and visual detail so characteristic of this series, readers are treated to another enchanting slice of Mma Ramotswe's world. Sure to please both enduring fans and new readers, this is highly recommended for all fiction and mystery collections.

Kirkus Reviews

Another charmingly gossamer mystery for Botswana's premier detective....As usual in this enchanting series, Mma Ramotswe provides less detection than advice, and wise advice it turns out to be, even when her clients decline to take it.

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Beyond the Book

Series Order

  1. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
  2. Tears of The Giraffe
  3. Morality For Beautiful Girls
  4. The Kalahari Typing School For Men 
  5. The Full Cupboard of Life (UK May 2003, US May 2004)
  6. In The Company of Cheerful Ladies (UK July 2004, USA April 19th 2005)

No news is bad news for Mma Ramotswe fans; I can find no sign of any further books in the series on the...

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