‘A Song of Comfortable Chairs’ by Alexander McCall Smith: Book Review


This month’s pick is just what we all need, I think, now that September is here, the days are getting shorter and work and study are getting arduous again – not to mention the inevitable commute.

A song of comfortable chairs is the 23rd book chronicling the trials and triumphs of Botswana’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. You don’t need to have read any of the previous 22, although, as with any series, some knowledge of previous events in the life of this “traditionally built” detective and her assistant can make it easier to settle into a story that has all the coziness own, very comfortable chair.

A new company in Gaberone’s office furniture market is undercutting prices, offering dubious incentives and behaving generally unprofessionally towards the incumbent of Phuti Radihuti. His company has always been known less for cutting-edge office furniture than for its very comfortable chairs, which are particularly well suited to “traditional building styles”. Unfortunately for the intervening company, Phuti is also married to the agency’s assistant detective, and word soon spreads of his company’s sudden loss of revenue. Adding to their business woes are the couple’s efforts to reach out and help an old friend’s troubled son.

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What to do?

A big part of the charm of these captivating books, and this one in particular, lies in the way possible solutions are considered and even found by Mma Precious Ramotswe, Detective #1 herself. Sometimes alone or with the help of her assistant, and always supported by a cup of traditional rooibos tea, Mma Ramotswe ponders solutions, considering them not only in terms of their legality but also in terms of her personal philosophy. No law or philosophy student can better explain a complicated argument and its pitfalls – no wonder, given the author’s own legal background.

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Thanks to Mma Ramotswe’s ideas, will Phuti’s own fight against ruin prove successful? Will her legendary patience and the determination of the good friend who runs a local orphanage be enough for the Radiphutis to help the troubled boy? Former apprentice turned car mechanic Charlie also plays a leading role in this captivating story. Author Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and popular authors, having written and contributed to more than 100 books, including scholarly journals, a gently satirical series set in Edinburgh, collections of short stories and a number of popular children’s books. his first book the white hippopotamus, a children’s book, was published by Hamish Hamilton in 1980. His new children’s series the training ship tobermory, enjoys great popularity.

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McCall Smith was born in 1948 to British parents in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). After studying law at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, he worked at universities in the UK and abroad, including many years in Botswana, where he co-founded and taught law at the University of Botswana. An amateur bassoonist, he also co-founded The Really Terrible Orchestra and was one of the founders of Botswana’s first operatic education center, perhaps inevitably called the Number 1 Ladies’ Opera House.

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Kate Barlow

Originally from England, she always loved the written word, made a career as a reporter for the Hamilton Spectator and eventually became a writer. As a founding member of a local book club, Kate is always looking for that pe…

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September 18, 2022

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