La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith

Three things about this picture:
1. Our sunroom is very bright! I am always surprised when I see the pictures.
2. My actual mug that I always use has been missing since last Monday. I might have left it in a teacher’s classroom? No one can find it. I bought a new one yesterday afternoon, but I took this picture yesterday morning. So the gingerbread man mug is what you get. It was a gift from one of the students in our Sunday School class.
3. Don’t you enjoy the 14-day stickers the library uses? I can’t tell you how many times they have come off in my bag. Which is something I feel kind of guilty about.

In some ways, this is a different sort of book for Alexander McCall Smith. I am always impressed at how his books can have very specific characters and he is able to get in the mind of each of them (even the detestable Irene in the 44 Scotland Street series) but there is a certain tone to all of his books that is part of what makes them so special. La’s Orchestra, set during a war, was muted in some ways, but the essentials were still there: the care that was taken with the characters, the internal struggles they have to do what is right, the belief that putting goodness rather than hatred into the world is its own reward.

This book is about La (short for Lavender), a young woman who finds herself a widow in the early days of World War II. After moving to the English countryside, she finds herself helping in the war effort by taking care of hens and, eventually, starting an orchestra for the people and servicemen who live nearby. Like all of Alexander McCall Smith’s books, this one is less about what happens and more about the people who respond to the trials and tribulations of everyday life (in this case, wartime everyday life).

One of the reviews I read recommended this book for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, and that was an apt comparison. That book had a bit more to the story, but the idea was the same: normal people doing what they had to do to survive the war. I loved both of those books for very different reasons: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is more about courage and hardship, while La’s Orchestra has the benefit of Alexander McCall Smith’s gentle grace. I recommend it, as I recommend all of his books, to people who care about characters and the things, large and small, that happen to them.

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