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La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander…

La's Orchestra Saves the World

by Alexander McCall Smith

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7736011,948 (3.55)39

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Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
I didn't feel like it lived up to it's potential. I really enjoyed the first two thirds of it, which was stylistically very similar to the writing of some of the mid-twentieth century writers that I particularly like, with the odd unexpectedly modern note. Then I just stopped for several days, and had to struggle to finish it. I never felt a strong sense of attachment to La, and became more detached as the story progressed. Then, near the end, the perspective and the timeline got wonky. It was like the author got his story rolling along nicely, and then was interrupted and couldn't get back into the flow, so just threw together some bits and pieces. It's by no means a bad book, but it wasn't quite all that I wanted it to be. ( )
  SylviaC | Oct 24, 2016 |
This is, more or less, the story of a young woman's experiences as a civilian in the English countryside during WWII. She helps a local farmer with his chickens, she starts an amateur orchestra, and she falls (somewhat unconvincingly) in love with a man who passes in and out of her life. It's a pleasant story, with little drama and almost no character development save La herself. I don't have a whole lot to say about this. Mostly it was just a nice little tale that I likely won't remember in a few months. ( )
1 vote melydia | Aug 31, 2016 |
Audiobook performed by Emily Gray.

As World War II breaks out, Lavender Stone leaves London for a cottage in Suffolk. La (as she is known to her friends) is fleeing more than the German bombings; her husband has run off to France, and she is struggling to make sense of their marriage. The peace and solitude of the small town suit La, and she begins to make friends. Believing in the healing power of music, she forms an amateur orchestra, drawing on the musical skills of villagers and soldiers at the local RAF base. Among the musicians is a reserved, proper Pole – Feliks – who becomes a friend, and kindles feelings La thought she had put aside.

Alexander McCall Smith has a gentle way of introducing the reader to his characters. La and the other residents of the town go about their business, observing the goings on in the village and the greater world, and trying to live the best lives they can in the circumstances. They worry, rejoice, are fearful, find love, relish friendships, enjoy simple pleasures and take action when they can.

The fact that La lost her mother at a young age definitely affected how she approached life and love. I was so happy that there were people in her life who genuinely cared about her, and about whom she could care. I totally understood how she came to her decisions, and felt her anguish over having to make some of them. I applauded her resilience and her ability to maintain her faith in the basic goodness of others. Her scope of influence may have been small, but she was a treasure to those within that circle.

Emily Gray was perfect performing the audio book. Her measured tone and steady pace were ideally suited to this gentle story. I do not normally care for sound effects or embellishments in audio books, but I really would have liked to have a little orchestral accompaniment in this one. Still, the lack of a musical score did not detract from the experience or Gray’s narration. ( )
  BookConcierge | Aug 19, 2016 |
I've enjoyed reading several of this author's books and seeing him speak in person. I was interested in this book because it's a standalone, something rare in Alexander McCall Smith's work. In it, a woman named La settles for a husband (who isn't very nice to her) who ends up leaving her and then dying and leaving her his house in the countryside. It takes her a while to settle into country life, learn about her neighbors, and adjust to WWII going on. It's a scary time, and La does her part by putting together a tiny orchestra that includes people from the village, people from the nearby military base, and the Pole who is working for the same farmer she works for. There's possibility of romance. There's possibility of betrayal. And there's possibility of La having one thing in her life that she does to make a difference in the world.

I really came to like La and like how important things she does feel, because she's a good person with good intentions in a difficult situation. She embodied the hard-working, noble, ordinary Englishwoman. I can't say I totally fell for this book the way I have with others, but I definitely enjoyed it and wanted to keep reading to find out where it was going. I enjoyed the orchestra and the sense of purpose and responsibility of those in it. The orchestra is glossed over, barely even in the book. And the time jumps are strange. Until you get to the end and realize the impact the orchestra has had on everyone as well as the transformative power of music in general.

I nice read with just enough character development and thought-provoking situations. ( )
  katekintail | Mar 12, 2016 |
NB this is a reread for me, and a new review.

La (Lavender) goes to Oxford with no intention of being married before her late 20s, but ends up romanced, in love, married and then abandoned by her husband. Her inlaws, displeased with their son’s actions, kind and honest people, give her their summer cottage as a home and promise to take care of her after the divorce. She is living there when World War II breaks out. At that time she volunteers to help, and so ends up with two jobs. The official one is to help an arthritic farmer take care of his chickens and collect the eggs. The second one is to organize and conduct an orchestra which can only rehearse once per month.

This is a stand-alone, historical fiction novel by McCall Smith, and one I tend to like better than I think I will during parts of it where I might not be happy with what he’s doing with La’s life or something else. There is something endearing about La and the other characters in this novel, which, although the bulk of it is during WW II, spans a good thirty years or so. I think that one of the reviews on the back or the novel that has a sentence that fits, “A fresh and unforgettable story about the power of human kindness.” From the Booklist starred review, and, as the reviewer from The Scotsman wrote, “An excellent re-creation of a woman of her time.”

I recommend this novel. ( )
  Karin7 | Feb 25, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
". . . McCall Smith tells a deceptively quiet story about what might on the surface seem a life of disappointment. . . [yet] La, with or without her slightly out-of-tune orchestra, saves her circumscribed world with little fanfare, one human gesture at a time."
added by 4leschats | editBookPage, Robert (Dec 1, 2009)
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This book is for J.K. Mason.
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Two men, who were brothers, went to Suffolk.
For her, life seemed unchanged, barely touched by the movements and shifts of the times. Again I have missed it, she thought; heady things are happening, and I am not there; I am somewhere in the wings, watching what is happening on the stage, in a play in which I have no real part. That is what my life has been.... I have been a handmaiden; she relished the word--a handmaiden; one who waits and watches; assists, perhaps, but only in a small way....
"We can't afford to be without God," Feliks continued.... If you take God out of it, then right and justice become small, human things. And weak things, too."

La thought about this. He was right, perhaps, even if she did not feel that she needed God in the same way Feliks seems to need him. She would do whatever she had to do--even if it was for the sake of simple decency. You did not wipe a child's tears because God told you to do so. You did it because the tears were there.
Surely she should feel indifferent towards him--there were so many displaced persons, people washed up by the war, people from somewhere else--and yet already she felt that looking after him was something that she had to do. But why? Because he was in need and he was about to cross her path. That, perhaps, was the basis of our responsibility to one another; the simple fact that we collided with one another.
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A stand-alone work by the author of the Isabel Dalhousie series finds divorcee Lavender fleeing World War II London and organizing an amateur orchestra that includes a talented Polish refugee who rekindles long-buried feelings.

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