Sunday, March 7, 2010

50BC10#2: La's Orchestra Saves the World

La's Orchestra Saves the World: A Novel La's Orchestra Saves the World: A Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
One of the luxuries in writing serials (for which Alexander McCall Smith is best known) is that you can always tie up loose ends in a later book. But in a novel like La's Orchestra Saves the World, that luxury doesn't exist. The premise of the story is great, and the book is a pleasurable read, but there is a lot that never gets fully developed. For example, the wartime pickup orchestra would have been an excellent opportunity to throw in several colorful characters who could make cameo appearances, leaving the meatier roles to the protagonist and secondary leads. The protagonist, Lavender (or La), always remains just at the edge of REALLY fascinating, partially due to her own reserve, but also in the way she is written by McCall Smith.

The book is a beautiful depiction, however, of the impact of war away from the frontlines. So many of us take our standard of living for granted, but the book revisits the time of victory gardens, rations, and being glued to the radio for news. I found myself wanting to know more about the orchestra that "saves the world" and less about the protagonist as time went on. I also did not like the ending, which seemed far too trite for the buildup.

It is a book worth reading if you've got a long plane ride ahead, or several hours just to sit and relax on the weekend.