The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

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The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Utterly delightful, all the way through. This eighteenth episode for Mma Ramotswe made me cry!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781408708149

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Dear Mma Ramotswe is back, for the eighteenth (!) book in the series, and what a beautiful book it is. I ran through the whole tumult of emotions whilst reading this story, with all the usual moments of humour, annoying (and yet endearing) idiosyncrasies of character, low level mystery solving and endless cups of redbush tea. There is a case for the agency with a lady who has been wrongfully fired from her job. There's the worrying, background presence of Mma Makutsi's nemesis, Violet Sepotho, who must surely have been involved in this poor lady's job woes. And there is the difficult discovery of an unknown family member for Mma Ramotswe, and an unwelcome return from another.

This book was exactly what I needed in my life at that precise moment in time. Having had a difficult time with a sick child it was, for me, pure and perfect escapism. I met with a friend one day, when I was about halfway through, who also loves these books and I said to her 'well I just got to a bit where Mma Ramotswe thinks that she will go and pay a visit to Mma Potokwani, and I thought to myself how nice, they're going to have some cake! Hearing myself say it, I knew it sounded a little bit ridiculous! To be happy that a character in a book was going to visit her friend and have some tea and cake! As a reader, though, I just felt the most enormous sense of pleasure, and of a rightness with the world, at the thought of these two old friends having a good chat, knowing that Mma Potokwani would have the right words to share with Mma Ramotswe, and understanding the great joy there is in sharing such a close friendship. Maybe that is the secret to these stories, that they wind their way into our hearts so much, these imaginary people who seem so very real, that we share their mundane moments of pleasure with great happiness, and equally we worry when they have worries of their own.

The mystery within the story was interesting and well done, and I confess that I wasn't sure of what was going on, so it actually felt like a real mystery! I loved that Mma Makutsi was declaring herself to be the 'Principal Investigating Officer', which made me laugh. Her ever-increasing ambition to make herself important is delightful to read. I also enjoy her interactions with Mr JLB Maketoni's apprentice, Charlie. They rub each other up the wrong way so delightfully. I do wonder, a little, how on earth the agency can manage to survive with seemingly so little work, but then I just tell myself that they must also be doing lots more rather mundane detective work outside of the stories, and that settles that! The best part of the story for me was Mma Ramotswe's storyline about the discovery of her unknown sister. I found it very emotional, each step she takes as she uncovers the truth, to the point that I did cry at the end of the book (happy tears!) I found the unfolding of events surprising, and Mma Ramotswe is so beloved to me that I felt every moment of her emotions with her.

I love these books for the deep and abiding kindness that they demonstrate each episode, for the comfort and reassurance in seeing that people are fallible, with all their character quirks and life mistakes, and yet second chances are possible, and forgiveness is possible. These stories seem to flow so easily from Alexander McCall Smith, and yet they are very tightly, very cleverly created. There is no excess in this book, as each moment and each conversation continues another strand of the plot or adds yet another layer to these characters I know and love so well. It amazes me how he writes these characters so consistently each time, and with such warmth. Thank goodness he doesn't appear to be tiring of writing about these characters, and so fans can continue to get their fix of Botswana life. I know I always rave about these books, but this one really was one of my favourite ones. I felt safe, and happy, deep down inside after finishing, and that's a precious gift to bestow on a reader with your story. I can't wait for the next one...

Further reading suggestion: With such a large series it's easy to lose track! Here's the list of all the books about Mma Ramotswe, in case you need to catch up on any Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series in Chronological Order.

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Buy The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith at


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