Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir
By Jennifer Ryan
Published: February 14, 2017

As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past. 
An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.

My review:

I love reading stories set during this time period. The Chilbury Ladies' Choir takes place in a small English village and the story is told through letters and diary entries from the perspective of a variety of characters. 

The vicar wants to disband the choir because the men are away at war but when the new music teacher Primrose Trent arrives, she encourages the women of the village to create a ladies' choir. The choir helps bolster the courage of the members as they face various challenges and fears. It also helps the people of the village by raising their morale even as there are bombings and losses.

Not all of the characters in the book are likable but some grew on me as they changed through the positive influence of Miss Trent and the other choir members. One such character is Venetia, a spoiled and vain girl who causes trouble by making young men fall in love with her. Her younger sister Kitty is naive and can also behave spitefully but she means well. I couldn't stand either of them at first but as they began to change, I liked them more. Then there is vile midwife Miss Paltry and the evil Brigadier who are just loathsome throughout. Thankfully there are some genuinely likable characters like Miss Trent and Mrs. Tillings, a widow whose son has just left to fight. There are secrets in the village and some characters seeking to capitalize on the war. I wanted to know what would happen and how various issues would be resolved.  Although the war is a dark subject there is plenty of humor in the novel too. Even though we get to know the characters only through letters and journal entries, I still came to care about them.

If you like historical fiction and reading about life in England during WWII, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir won't disappoint. It reminded me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Maryanne Shaffer and Annie Barrows as well as The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (set during WWI) and the British TV series Home Fires

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

1 comment:

  1. Oh! I am so glad this one was good. I love this time period as well and I loved Guernsey, so I will definitely have to add this to my TBR list. I like how the story is told through journal entries and letters. Thanks for the great review!


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