Synopses & Reviews
The newest installment in the bestselling No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, picks up with Mma Precious Ramotswe still engaged to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. She'd like to set a wedding date, but realizes that her fianc has other things on his mind--most notably a frightening request from the assertive matron of the Orphan Farm.
"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. As fans know, though, sleuthing takes second place to folksy storytelling in McCall Smith's wry novels. This time around, Mma Ramotswe is distracted by her long-prolonged engagement to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, Gaborone's best mechanic; it seems she will never be married, despite her fiancé's honorable intentions. He installs an extra large seatbelt in her car to keep her safe (she is quite comfortable with her 'traditional build,' despite the new, slender fashion of modern woman), but an altercation with another mechanic and the prospect of a charity parachute jump keep his mind off matrimony. A drive for decency motivates Mma Ramotswe and her friends among them Mma Potokwani, the imperious matron of the local orphan farm, and Mma Makutsi, assistant at the Ladies' Detective Agency and founder of the Kalahari Typing School for Men and Smith's talent is in portraying this moral code in a manner that is always engaging. As readers will appreciate, Mma Ramotswe solves her cases more questions of character, really, than of criminal behavior in good time. Traditionally built ladies living in the African heat don't tend to hurry, and, at the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, there's always time for another cup of tea. Agent, Robin Straus. (Apr. 20) Forecast: Fans will love the surprise in store for Precious Ramotswe at the end of the novel, and should bump this on bestseller lists." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"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...with a comical Runyonesque formality of language and a grasp of human relations that is very like Jane Austen." Bill Ott, Booklist
"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...have a primitivism that is as reductive as it is warm....[B]ig-hearted..." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"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." Kirkus Reviews
"Thankfully, Mma Precious Ramotswe is back in another delightful adventure....Sure to please both enduring fans and new readers, this is highly recommended for all fiction and mystery collections." Library Journal
"The fifth installment of the best-selling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series brims with the same old-fashioned charm as its lovely predecessors....Perfect for the bath." Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Alexander McCall Smith is a professor of Medical Law, but also author of over fifty books. These range from specialist titles such as Forensic Aspects of Sleep (the only book on the subject) to The Criminal Law of Botswana (also the only book on the subject) and The Perfect Hamburger (a childrens novel). His collection of African stories, Children of Wax, received critical acclaim and has been the subject of an award-winning film. He lives in Edinburgh.
Reading Group Guide
1. There are many references in The Full Cupboard of Life
to “the old Botswana morality.” Outline these virtues. In what ways is Mma Ramotswe a traditional, old-fashioned Botswanan woman? In what ways is she modern? According to Mma Ramotswe, what is “the right sort of woman?” How does she and Mr. J.T.B. Matekoni embody the “old Botswana morality?”
2. What is Mma Ramotswes general opinion of men? Is it a stereotypical view? Do you agree with her assessment? Is her fiancé, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, a “typical” male? What does she think are the characteristic differences between the sexes? And how does she interact and deal with males and females differently?
3. For Mma Ramotswes clients, how is visiting with her like talking with a therapist? What psychological tactics does she employ with her clients and in solving their cases? What is Mma Ramotswes approach to being a detective?
4. Describe the importance of tea in The Full Cupboard of Life. Note that theres even a chapter called “Tea is always the solution.”
5. What do you learn about Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni in The Full Cupboard of Life that adds to your picture of him portrayed in the first four No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books? How about Mma Ramotswe? Is she fairly consistent throughout the series? How about the other principal characters in the books—Mma Makutsi, Mma Potokwani, the apprentices? Have they grown fuller as characters, and matured over the course of the series?
6. More so than in the first four novels, Mma Ramotswe comments on love in The Full Cupboard of Life. What are her views on love and romantic relationships and marriage? Do you agree with her? How is forgiveness connected to love in Mma Ramotwes view? How is timing tied to love in her opinion? What determines her love for Mr. J.T.B. Matekoni? What threatens to undermine their relationship and their engagement?
7. What is the significance of the title? What are some other suitable titles for this book? Discuss the importance of the chapter headings to the novel as a whole. Why does Alexander McCall Smith give the chapters title-like headings?
8. Mma Potokwani and Mma Makutsi both think of titles for books they may someday write—How to Run an Orphan Farm; How to Get 97%. What are some titles for books you or other members of your book group could write?
9. Discuss the abundant imagery of the Botswanan landscape in this novel. Compare Mochudi village life with the busier world of Gaborone. Compare both with your hometown. Could these books have taken place anywhere other than in southern Africa? How has the landscape influenced Mma Ramotswe? Do you think the landscape has influenced the author as well? Through his descriptions, has it influenced you?
10. Describe the advice of Clovis Andersens The Principles of Private Detection. What sort of advice is it? Why does Mma Ramotswe admire Andersen so much?
11. Does Mma Ramotswe actually solve any mysteries in The Full Cupboard of Life? What does she do in this book? Compare and contrast the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books to other mystery series youve read and enjoyed. Are these books mysteries in the traditional sense? Do you think they are mysteries at all? How would you classify them?
12. How does the author refer to Mma Ramotswes history and past from the other novels? Why does he do this? Do you think you can read The Full Cupboard of Life without having read the first four books?
13. Describe the authors writing style. What is so compelling about the voice and description in the novel? How do you think Alexander McCall Smiths background as a Scottish medical law professor who grew up in southern Africa has affected these books?
Alexander McCall Smiths 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 occupy Mma Ramotswes time and energy.