La’s Orchestra Saves The World by Alexander McCall Smith, Review

La’s Orchestra Saves The World by Alexander McCall Smith is a heart-warming stand-alone novel about the life-affirming powers of music and company during a time of war, from the best-selling and beloved author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

La’s Orchestra Saves the World Synopsis

Alexander McCall Smith La's Orchestra Saves the WorldWhen Lavender, La to her friends, moves to the Suffolk countryside, it’s not just to escape the London Blitz but also to flee the wreckage of a disastrous marriage. But as she starts to become a part of the community, she detects a sense of isolation. Her deep love of music and her desire to bring people together inspire her to start an orchestra.

Little did she know that through this orchestra she would not only give hope and courage to the people of the community, but also that she would meet a man, Feliks, a shy upright Pole, who would change her life forever.

(Penguin Random House)

Genre: Drama, Historical, Romance, Literature

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Charming. Can any of us make a difference to the great events which determine our fate? That is the question Alexander McCall Smith explores in La’s Orchestra Saves the World.

The story is set in Britain and told through the eyes of a young woman named Lavender (all her friends call her La). La is a very real character – although intelligent, strong-willed and determined, at times she displayed self-doubt and struggled with ‘want’ versus ‘obligation’.

McCall Smith takes the reader on a journey with La from her days at university, first love, personal tragedy and the upheaval of the Second World War. Along the way the reader is introduced to a cast of characters from many walks of life, displaying determination and courage in many forms, as they each do what they can to contribute to the war effort.

The best word I can use to describe the writing style displayed by McCall Smith in La’s Orchestra Saves the World is ‘quality’. Neither self-indulgent nor sparing, his use of the British language and vocabulary is exemplary. And, I think there is something very rewarding about learning a new word or two through the enjoyment of a charming story. After all, why read if it is not to learn something, whether that be a new word or more about ourselves through personal reflection?

This novel serves up opportunities for personal reflection in spades. Would I have been so selfless? At what point does defence become aggression? What do allegiances really mean, and can the place a person was born dictate what they do and don’t deserve out of life? Is happiness a right or something we must earn?

La’s Orchestra Saves the World is a story about personal sacrifice and the strength of the human spirit. Although at times hauntingly sad, this story is equally uplifting and well worth reading.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5  —  Overall 4.5

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What others have said about La’s Orchestra Saves the World

“The evocation of war-torn England, with its palpable mood of defiance, determination and survival, is beautifully caught . . . An excellent recreation of a woman of her time.”
The Scotsman

“Unlike anything else in McCall Smith’s work.”
The Independent

“A metaphor for the transformative power of music…. crafted with the author’s usual wit, wisdom and grace.”
Washington Post

“Alexander McCall Smith writes about the enduring, patient qualities of love . . . The novel pays heed to our national yearning for a story to chew on.”
The Times (London)

About the Author, Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels and a number of other series and stand-alone books. His works have been translated into more than forty languages and have been bestsellers throughout the world. He lives in Scotland.