Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review: La's Orchestra Saves The World

Babs, Portia and I are all big Alexander McCall Smith fans, so I was excited to receive his latest book from Babs as a Christmas present. Late Christmas Day I came down with a bad cold, so I spent the next couple of days on the couch, covered in Kleenex, forcing fluids and reading La's Orchestra Saves the World.

Unlike his well-known mystery series featuring Precious Ramotswe and Isabelle Dalhousie, this is a stand-alone novel and there is not much mystery in it. Lavender ("La") Stone is a young widow living in the English countryside (Suffolk) when WWII breaks out.

La spends the duration of the war in Suffolk doing her bit to help by volunteering to help an arthritic farmer with his hens and organizing an amateur orchestra of musicians from the village and the near-by air force base. An injured Polish airman provides some romantic interest for La, but the relationship remains stuck in the "interest" stage during his time in Suffolk. There's a bit of mystery about a neighbor's son and a supposed theft of the arthritic farmer's savings--but not much.

The novel has very little plot and not much more character development. Some of the characters are little more than stock figures. La and her Polish airman are sympathetically drawn. McCall Smith is not known for dramatic plots, but he is a master at evoking the spirit of a time and place. He does not disappoint his fans in that regard here. La's Orchestra Saves The World draws the reader into wartime and post-war Britain with a gentle, diffident British touch.

I'd recommend this book for Alexander McCall Smith fans and for anyone who would enjoy a slow-paced, gentle excursion into the that era of British history.


Nik said...

QG, Sandy McC also plays in the Really Terrible Orchestra here in Edinburgh - they are hilarious! An orchestra created by frustrated and not quite so good musicians who never quite made it in school orchstras. :D

Quotidian Grace said...

Thanks, Nik, for that bit of information! If I lived in Edinburg I'd have to see if they need another terrible flautist.

Mary Beth said...

Adored this book. AMC;s writing is so supremely restful.