I enjoy all of Alexander McCall Smith's books and decided to try this 'one off' novel. I'm SO glad I did! AMS has the gift of taking his reader wherever he wants them to be: a dusty town in the Botswana dry season, a back garden in an upscale neighborhood of Scotland, and now a country village in 1940's Sussex. I disagree with the review that said the music portions felt "bolted on" - as I believe that in a time of extended crisis the average person will either run around screaming about the sky falling, or will take a good grasp on the things in their lives that they CAN control. It may be music, or the vegetable garden (a necessity for many during those times of rationing), or even helping a disabled farmer continue to contribute to the war effort by caring for his chickens. To see how people are affected by those stressors all you have to do is look at the changed behavior of Americans in the days, weeks and months following 9/11 - and that was just one day of terror, not years of bombs falling out of the sky on a nightly basis.
So, he's done it again - the book is heartwarming and a nearly complete picture is painted of the charming Sussex village and the lonely young woman who finds herself there during a remarkable period of history.
I HAD TO WRITE A REVIEW BECAUSE I CAN'T BELIEVE ANYONE WOULD GIVE THIS BOOK 5 STARS! I loved the first three No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, after that they were still enjoyable, but gradually lost their spark. I was hoping that Smith would come roaring back with this new subject "La". Did the book ever begin? Was there a story worth writing anywhere in it? Nothing ever happened. What was there to like? I didn't even like "La". She could have opened up her home to people in need. But no, she was an aristocrat who tended chickens and thought herself noble for the effort. If you want to read an excellent story set in WW2, read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"