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La's Orchestra Saves the World

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  5,179 Ratings  ·  968 Reviews
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.
When 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 b
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 7th 2010 by Anchor (first published November 1st 2008)
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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
Mar 26, 2010 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: light-and-fun, war
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
Oct 18, 2010 Edward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Book Concierge
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 t
Feb 04, 2010 Gill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ams, other-times, music
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
Lydia Presley
Jan 21, 2010 Lydia Presley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites, 2010
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
Mar 10, 2011 Carol rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 31, 2010 salinthebay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian Laird
Mar 25, 2014 Ian Laird rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, wartime
I am constantly struck by the quality and sincerity of Goodreads reviews, while accommodating different views and reactions.

Because of this variety I am prompted to pen my own brief thoughts a long time after reading this book. My afterimage of the tale is poignancy for a rural England of simpler values at a time of genuine peril.

The quality in the book I most admire, while acknowledging some of the faults identified by others (La’s absence of earthly worries, plot points left underdeveloped, I

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
Nov 01, 2010 Michele rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2010
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
Aug 14, 2009 Gary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2010 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Mar 07, 2013 Gwen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...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
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
Feb 05, 2009 Lois rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The power of music, the impact of the small people on large events, the importance of kindness, Bach for order and Mozart for healing.
Feb 13, 2009 zespri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ruth Bonetti
This was fun, but a little disappointing; perhaps the characters were not sufficiently delineated for my taste. But what a catchy title.
Karen ⊰✿
Apr 27, 2017 Karen ⊰✿ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uno_2017
Fabulous human story about the impacts of WWII on a small country English town.
It is a slow burn and a character driven novel and I thought it was absolutely readable and just lovely.
"That's because women haven't learnt their lesson".....
"Which is?"
"To live their lives as if men did not exist."

And although it is not La's intention, she lives her life alone, but finds great pleasure and satisfaction through relationships with others. Especially with the orchestra she starts and which keeps the lo
Moushumi Ghosh
I picked this book up at the Book Fair earlier in the year and got around to reading it thanks to the fact that I was housebound for a week. I liked McCall Smith’s other books and I thought that it would be easier to read since it is a standalone book not a part of the series. Well, I was right.

La’s Orchestra is a sedate little book about Lavender Fergusson (later La and Mrs. Stone) that is very much in the same vein as Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A sort of a feel-good book a
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.

Jennifer H
Mar 26, 2012 Jennifer H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Mar 10, 2011 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2010 Afshin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Kiera Healy
Aug 05, 2013 Kiera Healy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2009 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Play Book Tag: La's Orchestra Saves the World / Alexander McCall Smith - 4**** 2 9 Aug 24, 2016 07:51AM  
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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
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“If you take God out of it, then right and justice become small, human things. And weak things too.” 11 likes
“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.” 10 likes
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