Thursday, May 01, 2014

Alexander McCall Smith - La's Orchestra Saves the World


La's Orchestra Saves the WorldLa's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered Alexander McCall Smith via his Sunday Philosophy Club series, also known as Isabel Dalhousie series. He is better known as the author of the No. 1 Detective Agency series.

He seems to like writing series of novels on a set of characters and places. He also wrote (or is still writing) the 44 Scotland Street series.

I love his series. It is nice to settle into a familiar world of characters and curious stories that surround them. But I am afraid they are a strain on my pocket.

You see, Alexander McCall Smith is not found widely in the libraries that I visit. I fall so deeply in love with his stories, that I wind up buying the books, which puts a strain on my pocket.

I have just finished buying up the entire series of Isabel Dalhousie. Now it looks like I will have to start buying up the 44 Scotland Street series as well. They are so good, I just HAVE to read them.

In the meantime, I found La's Orchestra Saves the World in my Library.

La, short for Lavender, was brought up on the hills of Norfolk. After completing her school, she moved to London to study at Cambridge. This was in 1930. She wanted to do something with her life. But she found herself being courted assiduously by Richard Stone. She married him and found herself settling into a comfortable domesticity.

After a few years her husband leaves her. She is heartbroken and moves to Suffolk to start her life over. By now, the war is upon them and she finds she is better off in Suffolk. She tries to help with the war effort as she can. In the process she meets Feliks, a Polish Air Force personnel who has relocated to England.

She falls in love with Felix but her love is unrequited. Yet they enjoy a friendship with each other. A friend suggests that she start an orchestra as a lot of people are keen on it. The orchestra becomes a part of her way of coming to terms with a lonely life.

This is an unusual novel from Alexander McCall Smith, whose characters are usually laid back, artistic and easy going. This novel is very concerned with the times it is set in. The war is very real here. It depicts how people try to keep going on with their lives despite the huge upheavals that are taking place in their world.

La reminded me of Isabel Dalhousie in some ways. They were both well-to-do women, who don't have to depend on anyone financially. They both like speaking their mind and often find their foot where their mouth should be, even if their intentions were good. But Isabel is a very well sorted woman as far as her personal life is concerned, and poor La is very vulnerable.

Alexander McCall Smith is always very rewarding to read.

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