Because I always seem to be getting behind, I try to keep a list of the Alexander McCall Smith books that I still want to read. I somehow missed adding La's Orchestra Saves the World in 2009. Because it is not in any of his mystery series nor is it one of his serialized novels, it is set apart in many ways. So I was curious when I found it on our library shelf, and I wanted to read it, of course.
All previous McCall Smith fiction seemed to be set in the present time, but La's Orchestra Saves the World is historical, set mostly in the late 1930s and during the second world war. Its central character La (short for Lavender) is a young woman who is saved from a disastrous marriage by her in-laws who see their son's errors. Given a cottage in rural Suffolk, La moves from London to make a new life. There she meets the local farmers, the policeman, the clergyman, the tradespeople, and eventually pilots who fight the German air invasion. Many of them join her amateur orchestra that pledges to play through the war. It is just the stuff of which many Masterpiece Theater dramas are made.
While many reviewers noted La's Orchestra Saves the World as a departure, many McCall Smith qualities still shine through the narrative, including his thoughtful descriptions of quiet moments and the gentle humor shared by compassionate people. I suspect many readers will enjoy this little gem.
McCall Smith, Alexander. La's Orchestra Saves the World. Pantheon, 2008. ISBN 9780307378385.