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La's Orchestra Saves the World: Book review

Reviewer: Stephanie Zajkowski

Having read several of the incredibly prolific Alexander McCall Smith's "Detective Agency" books, I was expecting more of the same in his most recent offering, La's Orchestra Saves the World.

Instead this book is a rather subdued affair - but don't take that as a negative. It's just a departure from his usual style.

This stand-alone novel is a romance, a gentle and delightful tale of one woman's wartime in a rural English village.

Young bride La's (Lavender) marriage has imploded and so to lick her wounds, she scarpers to a sleepy Suffolk backwater just as World War Two explodes across England.

But even here the war intrudes upon her solitary life. Amateur musician La is persuaded to set up an orchestra for the inhabitants of the nearby airbase, in an effort to boost morale among both civilians and soldiers.

Naturally she develops close bonds in the process, but none more so than with enigmatic Polish airman, Feliks. However the closer she gets to Feliks (and this is a very drawn out process, the taciturn Feliks playing his cards very close to his chest...) the more she starts to wonder if he isn't quite what he claims to be...

McCall Smith works hard to bring La's little world to life. An emotional connection with La is established early on - even if I didn't always agree with her actions, I understood her well-wrought motivation.

La is very likeable, both staunch and soft, strong and vulnerable. The character of Feliks is a little more nebulous - or maybe that was Mc Call Smith's plan; by maintaining Feliks' emotional distance the reader's experience paralleled La's sense of disconnect.

In summary, this is a "quiet" novel. Delightful, contemplative and thoughtful too, this poignant little novel is unlike anything else he has written before.

Give McCall Smith a chance with this one, it's every bit as enjoyable as his other works. But sometimes it's nice to take a step sideways and welcome a story which drills into the human heart.

Rating: 7/10

La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith
RRP : $27.99
Available: Now