Sunday, July 25, 2010

La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith ****

In England, primary school children are taught their island is shaped like a man riding a pig. East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk counties) is the back end of the pig and given little respect throughout Great Britain. Years ago I worked in East Anglia, flat farming country, in a small market town called Saxmundham for more than a millennium. Change comes slow to this part of the world; their website shows the same town I recall from two decades ago.

This agrarian setting is perfect for Alexander McCall Smith author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series set in a similar milieu half-way around the world in Botswana. La's Orchestra Saves the World takes place during World War II and follows Lavender Stone, newly widowed, in her efforts to fit into life in East Anglia and adjust to the war.

As with the Botswana books the simple folks separated but aware of the bigger world provide a backdrop to the individual micro-crises for a wonderful variety of ordinary characters. The attraction of these books is the juxtaposition of the ordinary course of life against the larger picture that tries to exert itself, but somehow fails.

A most enjoyable read.

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