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by Alexander McCall Smith
Recorded Books, January 2004
Unabridged pages
ISBN: 1402569874

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Buy or rent from www.recordedbooks.com

Once again Alexander McCall Smith has brought to life Mma Ramotswe and transported us back to her beloved Botswana. Lisette Lecat in narrating THE FULL CUPBOARD OF LIFE is really tested with not only the unusual names of the characters but with also having to quickly switch from old to young and male to female and the listener can't help but pause to marvel at her adroitness.

THE FULL CUPBOARD OF LIFE is more about Mma Ramotswe and Mr J L B Matekoni and when they will be married, if ever, than about Mma Ramotswe's detective agency. Thus it's not actually a mystery, but no less worthwhile reading for all that.

Mr J L B Matekoni seems to have recovered from his depression; but he is still incapable of saying no to Mma Potokwani, who runs the orphan farm, and now tricks him into promising to do a parachute jump for charity. Mma Ramotswe feels this could throw Mr J L B Matekoni back into his depression, and yet, how can she get him out of this situation without it looking like she is controlling his life, and without making an enemy of Mma Potokwani?

While worrying about Mr J L B Matekoni, and also musing over whether or not she and he will ever marry, Mma Ramotswe still must run her No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. As is usually the case, her clients come to her more with problems in their life, rather than murders or deaths to solve. She draws from lessons of her childhood, and what she learned from the book on how to be a detective. These always seem to hold her in good stead.

Her current client is Mma Alonga who has become very rich and wants to get married before she is too old. She has selected four suitors from the many applicants who have sought her hand, but which of these four should she choose? Mma Alonga tells Mma Ramotswe about each suitor and asks her to tell her which would be the best one to choose. Mma Ramotswe sets out to interview the first candidate, a teacher who is involved with 'fallen' women. She continues on to the next, a radio personality, who has screaming teenagers waiting outside the studio just to get a glimpse of him. Before Mma Ramotswe can give her report on these two and continue on to the third, Mma Alonga pays her a visit that stops her mid-sentence and leaves her speechless but wiser.

As Mma Ramotswe is caught up in her own worries and the investigation for her client, Mma Ramotswe's assistant detective, Mma Makutsi, loses her brother to a long illness and decides to move to a home of her own. The description of life where she had rented a couple of rooms for her brother and herself can tear at the heart. Mma Makutsi boldly decides to take some of her profits from her Kalahari Typing School for Men and put it into the purchase of a house. Though it is a duplex and not in very good shape, through her eyes you see it as a wonderful, quiet, lovely home -- with indoor plumbing and running water -- and a lovely tree outside.

Charlie and the other apprentices at the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors are again up to their girl-watching and chasing antics. Charlie, as the eldest, figures in Mma Ramotswe's solution to Mr J L B Matekoni's dilemma and Mma Potokwani has her own solution to the problem of when, and if, Mma Ramotswe and Mr J L B Matekoni will get married. It all comes to a head at the very end and you will have to read -- or listen -- to find out where it will all end.

Reviewed by Ginger K. W. Stratton, May 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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