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La's Orchestra Saves the World

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  6,006 ratings  ·  1,051 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 ...more
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Birlinn
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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Feb 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Oct 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 Womens Land Army.

In brief, the story is about a woman who moves to a farm to
Feb 04, 2010 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
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
Lydia Presley
Jan 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Ian Laird
Mar 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Minor edits 17 January 2020.

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 personal thoughts a long time after reading the book. My afterimage of the tale is one of lingering poignancy for a rural England of simpler values at a time of genuine peril.

While acknowledging some of the faults identified by others - Las absence of earthly worries and plot points left
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
I am a fan of Alexander McCall Smiths 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 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

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, Lavendercalled La
Nov 01, 2010 rated it liked it
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
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 sons 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
Aug 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Ruth Bonetti
This was fun, but a little disappointing; perhaps the characters were not sufficiently delineated for my taste. But what a catchy title.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Easy 2 stars, hard 3 stars.

First of all, if you're expecting a story about how a woman inspired her neighbours through the power of music during the harsh WWII environment of England, I'm afraid you're in for a surprise; because that's not what happens. In fact the name of the book could have easily been something else since the orchestra was introduced in the second half and was not much more than an underused plot device.
This book is neither about about the love La has for music and how she
May 24, 2010 rated it really liked it

Las 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 upon
Mar 07, 2013 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
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
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 ...more
Feb 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Jeanette Grant-Thomson
Only just three. Okay for extremely light reading. It's a shame McCall Smith didn't develop his characters more. Not as good as the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books.
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
The power of music, the impact of the small people on large events, the importance of kindness, Bach for order and Mozart for healing.
Elizabeth  Higginbotham
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith introduces a new character, La Ferguson and then Stone, once she is married. We see this level of English society, but also the nature of life before World War II. Las life is privileged, but little intimacy. She marries after Cambridge, but we do not see a real love, but as the author notes during this time people of her status just married and carried on. After her husband leaves for another woman, she is supported by his family. ...more
Karen ⊰✿
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
After a couple of clients recommended this simply because of the name, I requested this book. Alexander McCall Smith always leaves me with a soft smile, so how could I resist? I ended up falling in love with this La as she found her own ways to resist the darkness. Such a lovely read
Suzanne Fournier
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Very different from McCalls Smith's regular work. My mom who has also read this said she wouldn't have recognized the writing if she hadn't known it was him. The only moment when I felt it was McCall Smith when Auden was mentioned. A quiet, introspective story that mostly takes place during the Second World War, where a widow tries to find herself and her place in war torn England.
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 Smiths 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.

Las 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
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a very different book from all the other AMC books I have read and loved. A master story teller and historical fiction made this another AMC Very good read.
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.

Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: post-wwii
Charming, but wanting novel. In several ways, it bears similarities to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (in that both novels feature an urban literary woman relocating from London to rural nowhere to find or to found a miraculous artsy/cultural community, be it a village orchestra or a book club, and that both novels follow a WWII romance with a woman falling for a foreigner; in Guernsey, these are two different women, and in La's Orchestra, it is one and the same). My main beef ...more
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Play Book Tag: La's Orchestra Saves the World / Alexander McCall Smith - 4**** 2 10 Aug 24, 2016 07:51AM  
Feliks 2 10 May 09, 2016 07:57AM  

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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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“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.” 11 likes
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