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Sunday, June 25, 2006


The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

Once I learned there were two more novels in Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, instead of facing The Full Cupboard of Life with regret that my sojourn through the life and world of Precious Ramotswe was almost over, I began the novel with pleasant anticipation. I was not disappointed.

As always, basic values, civility, and human decency are at the heart of Precious Ramotswe’s personal and professional lives, and, as always, her involvement with others illustrates the way—sometimes odd way—human beings function in society, whether in the ways of the “old Botswana philosophy” or in the modern way.

Somehow, problems have a way of sorting themselves out. It takes time and thought. And, to Precious, it also takes tea. “Tea is always the solution.” That simple line creates such a relaxing, comforting philosophical image that it brings a smile. That’s exactly what the entire book—the entire series—does.

Of course old problems remain unanswered. (but there are two more books to go) When will Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni finally marry? I’ve been waiting! It is nice to see that Mma Makutsi’s Typing School for Men is so successful she is able to move from her one room to two rooms in a four-room house with half a yard to call her own and a place to hang her laundry to dry. She is flush with success, and it is impossible for a reader not to empathize.

Mma Ramotswe reveals her views of love and marriage in this book as never before. We know her own history, of course, and we know Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. What we learn is a little more about her views of men and women and how each seeks to manipulate the other. Is Precious above that type of behavior? Can she act aggressively to protect her own? It is also interesting to see her deal with others in matters of the heart. When very successful businesswoman, Mma Holonga, asks Precious to find out about each of her four suitors—do they want her or her money—the results give one pause to think. As always, the author rejects stock characters and answers, and, as always, the result is an excellent reading adventure.

I love the title of this novel—The Full Cupboard of Life. It makes me pause and think about its meaning, not only for the book but also for me. Even in the novel the answer is surprising and based on the very human trait of individuality. A biblical reference in the last paragraph of the book caused me to google it. I did not want to miss one moment or allusion. My search led me, again, to finish reading this book with a smile and to think of opening the next novel in the series with more pleasant anticipation.
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