When Rain Clouds Gather

Head, Bessie. When Rain Clouds Gather. Oxford: Heinemann Education Publishers, 1995.

Reason read: Confessional – For weeks I have been calling this book When Storm Clouds Gather. I have no idea why.

In the most rural part of Botswana, untouched by western agricultural technologies, political refugee, Makhaya, and Englishman Gilbert Balfour try to revolutionize traditional farming methods. For the tribespeople of drought-ridden Golema Mmidi, this change is not always welcome, even if it means the end of entrenched poverty and the threat of starvation. Traditions run deep and when your tribal chief doesn’t approve of the new ways, the battle is more uphill than ever. Set against the backdrop of farming is the subject of love. Despite unrelenting unfavorable climate, the tribespeople of Golema Mmidi are passionate people. Head drew details for When Rain Clouds Gather from her own experiences as a refugee, living at the Bamangwato Development farm. It is hard to tell if the romantic parts are autobiographical as well.

Quotes to quote, “He was a platform speaker who never got down from the platform” (p 58), “It meant that if you loved people you had to allow complete invasion by them of your life, and he wasn’t built to face invasions of any kind” (p 67),”There were too many independent-minded people there, and tragedies of life had liberated them from the environmental control of the tribe” (p 141), and “You have to be loved a bit by the time you die” (p 179).

Author fact: Bessie Head was a biracial South African author and lived as a refugee like her character, Makhaya.

Book trivia: When Rain Clouds Gather was Bessie Head’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl said When Rain Clouds Gather is Bessie Head’s best-known novel. She also included what a librarian said about the book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple chapter called “Botswana” (p 42).

Full Cupboard of Life

Smith, Alexander McCall. The Full Cupboard of Life

Reason read: In honor of Mystery Month I started this series way back in January. The Full cupboard of Life is the fifth book in the series recommended by Nancy Pearl in either Book Lust, more Book Lust, or Book Lust To Go. I am nearing the end of my time with Mma Ramotswe and her family at the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I started in January with The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and now have one more book to read after The Full Cupboard of Life.

When we return to Mma Ramotswe we learn she is still engaged to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. They have yet to set a wedding date. There is no doubt Mma Ramotswe is patient lady! Although, in this 5th installment she is losing faith and dares to ask Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni the dreaded “when” question. It is even starting to weigh on Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni as he dreams about a wedding date.
The one noticeable difference about The Full Cupboard of Life is that, unlike previous books in the series, the plot is not as seamless as the others. Instead of picking up where the reader left off Smith takes the time to bring the reader back to the very beginning of the series, explaining who Mma Ramotswe is and how she came to have the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana. He also takes the time to reintroduce us to Mma Ramotswe’s beloved daddy and other early relationships. There is less emphasis on “mysteries” to solve.

Book trivia: The Full Cupboard of Life is  the last book I will read in order in the series. After this I am actually skipping THREE others: In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, Blue Shoes and Happiness, and The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (does this mean I missed the wedding?). I wonder why Pearl doesn’t include them in any of her recommendations?

Author fact: Alexander McCall Smith is currently on a lecture tour but (unfortunately!) comes nowhere near me. Bummer. I’m a huge fan now.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171). But, of course. As an aside, this was the first book I listened to on cassette and sadly, the tape was a little warped. This listening experience was not as enjoyable as the disc versions.

Kalahari Typing School for Men

Smith, Alexander McCall. The Kalahari Typing School for Men. New York: Anchor Books, 2002.

You don’t have to read the first three Mma Ramotswe books in order to enjoy Kalahair Typing School for Men but I think you would enjoy them better if you did. In the fourth installment of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency the plot continues to move away from solving mysteries (as it had been in Morality for Beautiful Girls) and the emphasis is placed more on character development. To bring you up to speed: Mma Precious Ramotswe is Botswana’s only female detective. She is engaged to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and together they have adopted two children, a brother and sister, but still haven’t set a wedding date. It seems Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is content to stay engaged for an indeterminate amount of time. Mma Ramotswe has two cases of interest. One is a gentleman wishing to repair his not so sterling past. He wants to make amends for a series of wrongs he has done as a youth. The other mystery is a typical marital woe of a woman thinking her man is cheating on her. The title of the story comes from Mma Matakutsi’s side business of starting a typing school for men.

Now that I am actually reading I have a few favorite lines, “That was the trouble with people in general: they were surprisingly unrealistic in their expectations” (p 5) and “We do not care about other people’s hats in the same way these days, do we? We do not” (p 158).

Reason read: to continue the series (started with The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) in honor of Mystery Month in January. Note: up until this point I have listened to the series in CD. I appreciated Lecat’s narration and pronunciation. For example, if I had read the series from the beginning I wouldn’t have known that “Zebra Drive” (where Mma Ramotswe lives) is pronounced Zeb – bra Drive and not Zee – bra Drive.

Author fact: You just have to check out the videos on Alexander McCall Smith’s website. He is quoted as saying he is very fond of Botswana and he wrote the Mma Ramotswe series as a tribute to the country. (see link on Morality for Beautiful Girls book review).

Book trivia: This is the fourth book in the series. Next up is The Full Cupboard of Life.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171).

Morality for Beautiful Girls

Smith, Alexander McCall. Morality for Beautiful Girls. Read by Lisette Lecat. Prince Frederick, Maryland: Recorded Books, 2003.

Let’s recap the last two books shall we?: In The Number #1 Ladies Detective Agency Mma Ramotswe has started Botswana’s only detective agency. She not only builds the reputation of her shop but her relationship with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (owner of an auto repair shop). Continuing in Tears of the Giraffe Mma Ramotswe takes on more complicated cases and becomes engaged and a mother (practically at the same time). Now in Morality for Beautiful Girls Mma Ramotswe becomes more involved with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s mechanic shop business and the two children she has adopted with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. She takes on one major case involving a government man who is convinced his brother is being poisoned by someone in the family. This case requires her to leave home overnight. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, Mma Makutsi, is climbing the business ladder as well. Not only does she become acting manager of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s repair shop while he is ill she also becomes an assistant detective and handles a huge case on her own because Mma Ramotswe is out of town. It’s this case that is the title of the book. Mma Makutsi is hired to find out which contestants of a beauty competition are beautiful on the inside AND out. Mma Makutsi is charged with finding the morality in the girls. In this particular installment of the series MCcall Smith focuses on morality on all levels. The initial focus is on the beauty queens but really he questions all of Africa’s morality as well.

Reason read: This continues the series started in January in honor of Mystery month.

Author fact: Alexander McCall Smith has his own website here. I particularly like the birds flying around. It’s charming.

Book trivia: This is the third book in the series starring Mma Ramotswe. Now Mma Ramotswe’s life is getting a little complicated!

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust from the chapter called “Ms Mystery” (p 171).

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Smith, Alexander McCall. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Narrated by Lisette Lecat. New York: Recorded Books, 1998.

As soon as you meet Mma Precious Ramotswe you realize she is a force to be reckoned with. As Botswana’s first female detective she spends most of her time solving mysteries by using her intuition and her ability to read people. She is a good judge of character so while she isn’t always solving major crimes like murders, she is making individual lives better. Take the very first case for example, “The Daddy.” A man claiming to be a woman’s long lost father moves into her house and starts to take advantage of her generosity. The woman has reason to believe the man is an imposter and goes to Precious for help. Precious tells the man his “daughter” has been in a terrible accident and needs a blood transfusion. Only he can supply the blood needed…and that the procedure is highly dangerous so there is a good chance he will not survive. BUT, he will save his daughter! Precious knows a true father will lay down his own life for his only daughter while a perfect stranger will not. Sure enough, the imposter admits he is a fraud and is run out of town. The list of “mysteries” solved grows longer and as a result so does Mma Ramotswe’s reputation. She becomes the number one detective agency for Botswana. The types of mysteries Mma Ramotswe solves range from deadly serious (the disappearance of a young boy) to the downright silly (a father doesn’t want his young daughter seeing boys). Probably my favorite cases are the latter because the daughter pulls a fast one on both her father and Mma Ramotswe but I also liked the time when Mma Ramotswe has to steal back a stolen Mercedes Benz and return it to its rightful owner without anyone knowing how it all happened.

Reason read: January celebrates the female heroine of mysteries. This is the first book in a very long series. I will be reading five more.  I can’t wait to read some of the others.

Author fact: Alexander McCall Smith looks a little like John Cleese to me. I have no idea why.

Book trivia:  Interesting fact – I heard that HBO made a series out of the books. That’s cool. Now I wish I subscribed to HBO!

BookLust Twist: Nancy Pearl must love this book. It is mention in all three “Lust” books: Book Lust (in the huge chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123)), More Book Lust (in the chapter called “Ms Mystery” (p 170)),and Book Lust To Go (in the chapter called simply “Botswana” (p 70)). I have to admit I agree. This was a great book!