La's Orchestra Saves the World
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La's Orchestra Saves the World

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3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  3,981 ratings  ·  839 reviews
La Stone is a widow who, as the Nazi threat looms, assembles a ragtag orchestra in rural Suffolk in hopes of altering "the temper of the world." She falls for one of her recruits, a Polish pilot with a suspicious past. But patriotism trumps passion, leaving La to worry if her life will always be "a play in which I have no real part." In McCall-Smith's quintessentially Engl...more
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Polygon
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ruzmarì
This is a sweet novel, and a frustrating one. McCall Smith (of the Ladies Detective Agency fame) here offers a stand-alone volume about the cultural act of healing from war, the redemptive power of music, and the trials of patient love. The La of the title (short for Lavender) is plucky, respectful and brave - also independently wealthy after the death of her philandering husband, and as it happens displaced from London. She takes up farm work in a rural community to help with England's WWII eff...more
Laura
Alexander McCall Smith has a penchant for “cute” titles, some quite funny(At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances). However, something about a character named La, short for Lavender, struck me as too twee even for my low standards. I should have followed my instinct and skipped this, but I hoped for shades of Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Peel Society, or maybe “Paradise Road,” or at the very least some insight into the Women’s Land Army.

In brief, the story is about a woman who moves to a farm...more
Edward
Oct 18, 2010 Edward rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Edward by: book group
Shelves: fiction
Apparently, readers familiar with the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series are somewhat disappointed by this book. Not having read the series, I wasn't disappointed at all and was even delighted. That might seem odd considering the story takes place in England in the years leading up to and through WWII.

Lavender is a rather ordinary heroine. She maintains her poise and perseveres despite setbacks and unexpected events. I think that's the whole point. She embodies her country's spirit as she mak...more
Gill
I got this book on a whim, because my sister is Lala (her nickname for herself) and she plays in an orchestra, so I thought I might give it to her. I've enjoyed the Isobel Dalhousie books, the Prof. Igelfeld trilogy and love Mma Ramotswe above all. I've also read many of his short stories and children's books.
After I finished it (in one and a half days, and reading far too late into the night) I read the reviews and was surprised by them.

This book impressed me more than any other AMS book I ha...more
salinthebay
One Goodreads crit wrote," (AMS)Reads kind of like a Virginia Woolf novel, except that there is a hopefulness and the characters are less fatally fragile." Right on!

His female character, La, short for Lavender, hence the garden theme, is kind, tough and introspective. La is not unlike his other female characters in the No 1 Ladies' Detective series, and The Isabel Dalhousie series, my personal favorite. His understanding of the famale psyche ceases to amaze me...pehaps his work in bioethics has...more
Mari Anne
I just can't resist a new Alexander McCall Smith! Hope it's as good as No. 1 Detective!
New update: Just finished it and have to say I was disappointed. The basic plot of this story had so much potential that unfortunately was never realized. The author, like in many of his previous books, has a tendency to wax poetic and ramble on for paragraphs about lovely philosphical ideas that are quite profound I am sure, but add nothing to the actual story. During these pages I, your humble reader and rev...more
Carol
I am a fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s books and usually love his simple story structure that allows for profound commentary on everyday life. I felt that this particular book fell short of the mark. The book is set at the outbreak of World War II in Great Britain. LA, an abbreviation for Lavender, is living in the country recovering from the betrayal of her philandering husband and his subsequent accidental death. She is the type of person who has a tendency to let life pass her by, being more...more
Michele
Decided to try something besides Ladies #1. I enjoyed the style and writing of this book very much. It has a feel of Potato Peel Society but not quite the happy ending you want or expect. I loved how you got an idea of what is like for people before the war started. I thought it gave some interesting history.
pg55 War is madness let loose.
on page 59 She plants a garden for the future, not knowing what it hold, and and says, "I shall not starve. Whatever happens in the world, I shall not starve h...more
Sheila


London, Cambridge and Suffolk all play their part in this historical novel by Alexander McCall Smith. Set in the time around World War II, it builds a convincing picture of war-torn Britain where human kindness wars with the darkness of suspicion and fear. Real characters fill the village streets, farm the fields, and feed the airmen stationed nearby. But if foreigners are dropping bombs, can a Polish pilot with a German accent really be worthy of trust?

Betrayed by her husband, Lavender—called L...more
Lydia Presley
It's no secret that I love Alexander McCall Smith. I think his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series is pretty darn near close to perfection.

In La's Orchestra Saves the World he writes with the same simple, pure style that he does in his other books and it works so well. I always feel as if life slows down and I can, figuratively speaking, smell the roses when I read one of his novels. I love the feeling of peace and calm I get and how he always finds the gentleness and kindness in people, no matt...more
Gary
Alexander McCall Smith is best known as a serial novelist. This particular novel is a departure from that, a "one off" work that tells the story of Lavendar Stone, who decides at the beginning of World War II to form a local orchestra in Suffolk, particulary just to show Hitler that he can't stamp out all of the beauty in the world. The novel also follows her life into the Cold War, where she brings the orchestra together for one last performance: "Absurdly, irrationally, she believed that music...more
zespri
Thank goodness for Alexander McCall Smith! His books are like a warm bath - soothing and comforting. A simple story of one woman's war and the aftermath.
Lois
The power of music, the impact of the small people on large events, the importance of kindness, Bach for order and Mozart for healing.
Kathleen
I really enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's writing and his value system. This isn't one of the books from his series, and it parallels his own love of music. La (short for Lavender) is betrayed, then widowed, then moves to the country and finds peace in her garden, until the outbreak of World War II. Her contributions to winning the war are caring for chickens and, more importantly, keeping the semblance of peace and the normal rhythms of life moving forward by forming an orchestra. It combines tow...more
Sue
A pleasant story, something I might have found in a Good Housekeeping or Redbook Magazine years ago when those magazines still printed novella-sized fiction.

McCall-Smith's writing is sparse, pleasant, and easy to read. He is at his best with his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series where his characters, the locale, and the story line make the best possible use of his style.

The story is about a young English woman, recently widowed by an unfaithful husband, at the beginning of WWII. When readin...more
Sterlingcindysu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Afshin
Is life simple and linear? Or as modern literature tried to convince us it’s complicated and unapproachable. Are we lost in maze of life, with different conflicted features in our mind or not? After I finished “La’s Orchestra saves the world” I struggled with these kinds of questions for a while. I could not believe that you can simplified life as it reflected in the story and still believing that the story is “an evocation of wartorn England, with its palpable mood of defiance” as some claimed....more
Carolyn


La’s Orchestra Saves the World centers on an ordinary Englishwoman in the years just prior to and during WWll. It is a quiet, graceful book, describing the small day to day activities of ordinary people trying to keep some semblance of order in their lives while dealing with the abruptly changing times.

The main character, La (short for Lavender) Stone, grew up on a hilltop in Surrey, and left to attend Cambridge where she expected to “be taught how to think.” Instead, she married immediately upo...more
Joan
Not every battle of World War II was fought by soldiers, on the seas and oceans, on the beaches, on the landing fields. And if there were no combatants involved, some were still indeed fought in the fields and the streets, as ordinary English men and women went about their lives, riding out the storm of war, doing the small things that needed doing.*

This novel, a departure from McCall Smith's usual serial work, is about one such Englishwoman, Lavender Stone, in one small Suffolk village.

Lavender...more
Lynn
Wow...quite a unique story, in my opinion! La was not a particularly forceful person, but she participated in life to the fullest extent possible, given her personality and circumstances. I love the way McCall Smith tells La's story and virtually no details of what I presume to be the happiest time of her life, with Feliks. I particularly appreciate the emphasis on the reality of making a difference, although in very small ways, as the overall majority of us are limited in societal power. I do b...more
Gwen
Every February, in honor of Valentine's Day, my local library has a "blind date with a book" feature whereby books are wrapped in gift paper and topped with a chocolate. Patrons are encouraged to checkout a book without knowing what is inside, thereby taking out something which they might ordinarily not select. This past February, I had a "blind date" with "La's Orchestra Saves the World".

As it so happens, I would not have chosen this book on my own. I had previously read one of McCall Smith's...more
Donna LaValley
This is a good book, but is miss-titled (imho). The main character "La" helps create a country orchestra during WWII, but the orchestra and how it helped the war effort, or even how it helped more than 2 people through the hardships, is not the focus of the book. It's about the main character and her experiences before, during, and after the war: her loneliness, fears, personal disappointments, and experiences. She wasn't greatly deprived, being wealthy. The charm comes from the village and the...more
Jennifer H
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ann
This was the first of my Christmas gift books -- so I started it yesterday (Boxing Day!) It is by one of my favourite writers -- but very different from any of his other series.

It is set before and during the second world war, mainly in Suffolk, England. The main character, La (short for Lavender) has an unsuccesful marriage (husband leaves her for a French woman, then has an accident and dies.) She moves to Suffolk to get away from memories and to re-build her life. She becomes part of the war...more
Kiera Healy
You know what you're getting with an Alexander McCall Smith novel - lots of internal monologue, debates on social niceties, and not much in the way of plot. Still, I find that his books can be very hit and miss.

This one was particularly good. La (short for Lavender) is a young widow at the outbreak of WW2. Living in a village, she longs to be useful, and eventually establishes a small orchestra for servicemen and locals to come together and feel a sense of hope. Here, McCall Smith's slightness o...more
Kelli
Jun 20, 2011 Kelli rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE. ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE,
This is my first book by Mr. Smith. I have never read any of his wildly popular series because I generally don't like to read series.

This sweet stand alone novel centers on La, short for Lavender, a tender but plucky widow living in a small English village during World War 2. La's love for her neighbors and humanity at large, combined with her love of music make for a wonderfully uplifting and yet realistic tale of walking through adversity with grace, poise and compassion.

I'm not about to give...more
Susan
Lavendar Ferguson, a Cambridge-educated divorcee moves to the small, sleepy English village of Surrey after her husband runs off with his French mistress to Bordeaux. England declares war on Germany and to assist with the war effort, she cleans chicken coops for a cranky, arthritic farmer. In order to soothe her broken heart and alleviate some of the dispritedness associated with war, she initiates an orchestra. With shabby instruments and the rusty musical skills of villagers, RAF soldiers and...more
Amy
A first stand alone from Alexander McCall Smith, La’s Orchestra Saves the World is a heartwarming, comforting read. Lavender, La for short, demonstrates how a simple ordinary woman can impact those around her by her simple ordinary actions. Set in Suffolk England during WWII this story nicely illustrates the English phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Despite the desperate situations of the war, La offers to not only do some “war work” for a local farmer free of charge, but to also create a local o...more
Debra Sansing
Absolutely loved this book. It wasn't perfect especially toward the end as the main characters became a bit long-winded in making their points, but overall, I thought it was fantastic. I love Alexander McCall Smith's sensibility, the way he tackles difficult topics and times without overwhelming me. I love his command of language, the way he evokes a certain place and time without going overboard. Part of the reason I loved this book is because it is set primarily in Suffolk, England which is wh...more
Bonnie
A quiet, gentle and slow moving tale taking place shortly before WWII, during the war, and briefly after. The setting for most of the story is a small farming village in England. Circumstances revealed in about the first third of the book have brought La (short for Lavender)to live there in an isolated house and she becomes friends with a nearby farm wife and volunteers for war work helping an ailing farmer with his chickens. The story is complicated by the arrival of a Polish refugee and former...more
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Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what...more
More about Alexander McCall Smith...
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1) Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2) Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #3) The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #4) The Full Cupboard of Life (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #5)

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“We can't afford to be without God," Feliks continued. "Even if he doesn't exist, we have to hold on to him. Because if we don't, then how are we to convince ourselves that we have to go on with this fight? If you take God out of it, then right and justice become small, human things. And weak things, too.” 9 likes
“If you take God out of it, then right and justice become small, human things. And weak things too.” 9 likes
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