Author: Jennifer Ryan
Type of book: small village, England, WWII, 1940, secrets, mysteries, bets, love, abuse, music, importance of community, hidden strengthl left behind, second chances
Year it was published: 2017
"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.
Main characters include Mrs. Tilling who in beginning is a timid woman but who grows in strength as the war marches on. She becomes the one other characters depend on and she is also extremely clever in putting pieces together. Edwina Paltry is someone who seems to constantly have bad luck when it comes to finances and relationships as well as career choices. She is also resourceful in pulling off her stunts and cares a lot about money, seeing it as a way to make up to her sister Clara. Kitty Winthrop is a young teenager of about fourteen years of age who has a crush on Henry who is in love with her older sister Venetia. Kitty is not good with reading people correctly and often bears the brunt of her father's attacks. Venetia is about eighteen or so, a sort of English Scarlett O'Hara in beginning, but she grows and matures a lot throughout the few months. She is also very competitive in love and wants to beat her sister. While there are men in the background, they aren't given as much limelight as the women in the book are.
Creativity is important to survival
The story is in first person narrative and is told in an epistolary style through letters, diaries, journals and telegrams; namely from Mrs. Tilling's point of view, Venetia's, Kitty's, and Ms. Paltry's, although once in a while other characters like Silvie or Henry or even Lt. Mallard also jump in. The points of view are distinct from one another which means one couldn't confuse one character from another, and I sincerely do hope that the author has plans on writing more about the Chilbury Ladies' Choir.
(From the book)\
Jennifer Ryan was born in Kent, England and now lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and their children. Before turning her hadn to writing, she was a book editor, both in London and Washington D.C.
Let's be honest; each time WWII is mentioned, the thoughts that go through my head are espionage, depression, darkness and people that are out on the trenches instead of some who stayed behind for one reason or another. Thoughts that don't pass in my head at the mention of WWII are people left behind, joy, uplift, daily life and music. Yet this book contains much of what is not associated with a WWII novel and very little of what is commonly associated with that particular event. For these coming times, the book points out a lot of important lessons that are forgotten, such as the joy of music and creativity for others, how tough it is being a grown up, and the importance of community which is demonstrated over and over in the story. I also am wondering if the author has intentions on making it a series because some threads are not yet done at the end, and I would like to see more of the characters and their strengths as WWII continues on.
This is for Blogging for Books
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)