La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith

La's Orchestra Saves The WorldRated it: 4 1/2 stars

Goodreads blurb

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 English world, perserverance, pots of tea and the power of music will show the way.
(Ellen Shapiro for People magazine)

Of all the books I’ve read concerning WW II I believe that this would be the first one I’ve come across where the protagonist is the furthest away from warfare and gore. What I mean is that I’ve seen through the eyes of the persecuted Jews and those (who weren’t Jews) close to them and I can’t recall ever reading from a Briton’s point of view. Personally, it’s refreshing to view things from another angle, to see how life carried on relatively far from the heavy rain of lead bullets, how the country side and its people were affected and how they were coping.

La’s Orchestra Saves the World is the story a young woman who suffered through heart break, then a war that brought about its own miseries but also turned out to be an opportunity for her to meet certain people who would shape the rest of her life. This is a story of how a woman’s quiet courage and music helped inspired hope in the townsfolk through the dark days for five years. It told me of the fright of risking loving again even if the other may not feel the same.

This was a tale my heart embraced, it felt sure of the sense of life in the country with the usual neighbourly suspicion and unity and even the animosity, it’s pulsed fluttered warmly at the kindness shown. My heart thundered at the injustice of the Poles being shut out of the celebrations marking the end of that nightmare, those men who fought beside the Brits being given the cold shoulder after everything.

For the record the latter was because of Stalin’s demand of annexing parts of Poland – Kersey in particular from where the majority of the misplaced Poles in Britain hailed from – and Sir Winston Churchill’s and President Roosevelt’s concession, it was betrayal in the eyes of the Polish men. I admit to my ignorance of the finer details to be more precise but I’ll attach my *points of reference at the end of this review.

This book made me feel. It drew tears, etched smiles, carved frowns and tickled chuckles as times (and made me do research) and this is important because it meant it holds a place in me, where the wisdom between its covers enriching my little vault of knowledge, surely a book I will certainly return to again.

The promised points of reference:




Filed under Books, Fiction, Mad Reviewer Reading Challenge

2 responses to “La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith

  1. Great review. This looks like a book I may have to read. I’m starting my new book and it deals with the same time frame–only in France. It’s based on my mother’s and grandmother’s life, but there are too many fill-in-the-blanks to make it anything both a novel.

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