Friday, February 27, 2009

La's orchestra saves the world

When her husband leaves her to live with a French woman in France her parents in law allow her to live in their country house in Suffolk. With a degree in literature from Girton Hall, Cambridge, followed by married life with Richard in London, La took a while to adjust to her new surroundings despite her early life in Surrey. Mrs Agg from the farm next door helped her settle in and when war broke out she worked looking after hens on a nearby farm. It was there that she met Feliks, a Polish airman who had flown with the RAF. After he had been shot down and lost an eye he worked on farms.

Alexander McCall Smith's book, La's orchestra saves the world, provides a microcosm of life in the farming community near an airbase during the Second World War and reflects on relationships that develop or have the potential to develop, particularly between La and Feliks.

Permission is granted for La to start an orchestra which meets once a month to play music for themselves and anyone who wants to listen. The orchestra becomes a symbol of defiance against the threat that overshadows the lives people living in England. Music, even played inexpertly, has the power to bring people together, if only for a short time.

The book explores the effects and aftermath of war and how people adapt to hardship and change. It also questions political outcomes that impacted upon the lives of people from other countries who supported the allies during the war but lost their homelands in the carve up at its conclusion.

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