“ Author: Alexander McCall Smith / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 02 July 2009 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Title: La's Orchestra Saves the World / ISBN 13: 9780349122052 / ISBN 10: 0349122052 „
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Very slow start made me feel like giving up. Two brothers visit a sleepy Suffolk village that they lived in when they were small boys. They visit the old house and are reminded by the latest owner of La.
The story of La begins with her at school, going to Cambridge and meeting Richard with the disarming smile. They marry but her life is changed and she moves into an old house in Suffolk owned by her in-laws, just before the start of World War 2.
At this point in the story it gets more interesting and I felt more empathy with the character La. She meets local people and finds innocent friendliness all around her and the way that she engages with the new people in her life makes the story come alive. Although this is not a thriller it is very much in the Alexander McCall Smith style of storytelling. He sets the scene and the background of the story and finds characters that are engaging, sympathetic and helpful. The book is worth persevering with after the early chapters.
As the war begins La wishes to help the war effort in any way she can but is discouraged by friends from returning to London. Instead she remains in Suffolk and volunteers to help a local farmer. She meets a wounded Polish airman and proposes the formation of an orchestra, made up of locals and airmen waiting for their next assignment, to help create some community spirit.
This book follows the usual style of Alexander McCall Smith in that the characters and their settings are of a sadly bygone era where behaviour such as kindness and fair play were largely the norm. The setting in this novel is different from the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Isabel Dalhousie novels but still has the same core values at it's heart. 7/10.
A reasonable read, different from many others by the same author but with the same values at it's core.
La's Orchestra Saves The World is not in a series, it is a stand-alone book. It is set around the time of the second world war. La (which is short for Lavender), lives in the Suffolk countryside after having divorced her husband. She goes there to escape, but ends up being drawn into the lives of the villagers. Like most McCall Smith books, there is a bit of a mystery in the story - is the Polish refugee Feliks really who he says he is? To help build morale, La sets up an orchestra for the RAF and the locals.
Again, I was amazed by how well Alexander McCall Smith writes as a woman, really getting inside La's head. He carefully describes the landscape as well as the characters and their feelings.
La's Orchestra Saves the World was easy to read in a couple of days. But it's not entirely happy (not as cheerful as the Ladies Detective Agency novels). If you enjoyed the Isabel Dalhousie novels, then I think this one will be to your taste.