Monday, October 29, 2012

Quiet Words of Wisdom from Alexander McCall-Smith


Alexander McCall-Smith

Our Thursdays With Maureen Group just discussed Alexander McCall-Smith's 2008 standalone novel La's Orchestra Saves The World.   

La (short for Lavender) has had her heart broken and moves from London to a small village at the start of World War II.  She lives a quiet life and being from London she craves a little more intellectual stimulation than the townspeople can deliver.  Eventually she volunteers to help with the war effort by taking care of a local farmer's chickens. This gives her days purpose and makes her feel more a part of village life.  One thing leads to another, she meets a mysterious Polish airman and starts a beloved community orchestra to boost moral and lighten the wartime mood.  

This selection is reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel SocietyMcCall-Smith's writing makes you feel you are transported back to wartime EnglandThis book is a little more serious than his other books.  He has stated that he wanted to highlight the everyday people of World War II who were never honored as heroes but who were brave just the same as they endured the war years.

He also says "The other group I wanted to pay tribute to was the Poles.  Polish servicemen played a major role in the war. Their airmen, for example, participated in the Battle of Britain, that crucial battle that decided the fate of Europe. At the end of the war the Poles were betrayed and the contribution of their forces largely ignored. In the victory parade in London, the Poles were not allowed to march with everybody else (Stalin insisted on this). So those brave men stood at the side of the road and wept. This book is about them too.".
44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, #1)McCall-Smith is the prolific author of many novels plus nine series including the well known No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series and Corduroy Mansions.  One of our members reads almost all of his series and said that the 44 Scotland Street books are her very favorite.  They revolve around the comings and goings at 44 Scotland Street which is described by the author's website as occupying  "a busy, Bohemian corner of Edinburgh's New Town, where the old haute bourgeoisie finds itself having to rub shoulders with students, poets... And number 44 has more than its fair share of the street's eccentrics and failures...". 

 McCall-Smith's books are quiet character studies.  There is not a lot of action but small gems of life's lessons are gently given.  La's Orchestra Saves The World is a wonderful selection for a brisk late autumn day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Gone Girl" - WOW!


Wow, what a story! Gone Girl is definitely the best page turner in a long while. 

It was written by Gillian Flynn who also wrote two other novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects.  She must have been practicing with those because Gone Girl is certainly dark but extremely entertaining.  

She is a former TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, lives in Chicago, was born in Kansas City, received a degree from University of Kansas and a masters from Northwestern.  Therefore, she's a Midwesterner.  That is useful while reading Gone Girl.  There is a lot of Midwest bashing and criticism of the media so it's nice to know her background and whose side she is on.  

This book is in the nature of the movies The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense.  It is most enjoyable if you have no idea what its about.  

There are many issues to discuss for book clubs if the members don't mind a dark selection.  Eventually you many not love the characters but you will certainly be highly entertained trying to figure out how it's going to end.