The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
If you are, like me, a fan of BBC/Masterpiece dramas that deal with the WWII era, specifically Home Fires, this is a no-brainer to add to your TBR. Debut author Jennifer Ryan brings us a story of the small English village of Chilbury, at the onset of the war. Please read on for my review of
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
Chilbury is a small village in Kent, with all of the dramas, intrigues and community that one would expect. But there’s one small hiccup: at the onset of war, the Vicar has decided that the choir, now bereft of male voices because of the volunteers and call ups, will be disbanded until the “boys come home”. This becomes the story of the women of the choir, and their efforts to keep that one bit of community alive in a time when they feel it is most necessary, despite the lack of support from their vicar.
Told in a series of letters and diary entries, this story is not wonderful because of the ‘newness’ of the subject, nor are the characters we meet full of bonhomie and good will. These are ordinary women, faced with extraordinary circumstances and changes that rock the foundations of all they know, as they struggle to survive and support the war effort from home. Thrust into positions that they are unprepared for, these women are learning as they go: running households, farms, shops and their communities. This doesn’t make them saints, they all have a solid streak of ‘get on with it, even as they all show they are human and subject to worries, cares and uncharitable thoughts.
What emerges is a highly personalized version of those left behind during the war: the struggles they faced, the personal challenges they overcame and the knowledge gained that forever changed them, and their country. Each character is carefully developed and explored: you hear their voices, you can picture their lives and worries, and a full image of the story and the moments arise with the author’s careful insertions of history, scenery and people. A book that draws you in and demands attention, yet allows you to savor the moments, reveling as if on a quiet bench looking on. I’ve read it 3 times in the six months I’ve had it available, and just want to dive back in again! If you enjoy a quieter and subtly complex story that introduces characters, conflicts, resolutions and community with equal attention paid, this is the book for you. Certainly one of my favorites for the year.
Title: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir
Author: Jennifer Ryan
Genre: British, Historical Fiction, Small Town, World War II
Published by: Crown Publishing
Published on: 14 February 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 24 minutes
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About the Book:
"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!"
As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead 'carry on singing'. Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir", the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.
Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit -- a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past -- we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life.
In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the home front, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: