Official Synopsis from Amazon: 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 homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Fictional village of Chilbury in Kent, England in 1940.
***I received an eARC copy of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir from Crown Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***
Review: Beautiful story of life on the home front during WWII. Powerful, kind, and while WWII is a difficult topic, this is a heartwarming read.
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan takes us back in time to WWII Kent, England, in the fictional village of Chilbury in the year of 1940. The vicar has decided to disband the choir, due to the fact that there are hardly any men in town. What follows is a story of hard work, determination, kindness, blackmail, love, loss, and friendship. I loved this book!
Told in letters, journal entries, and diary entries, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir was a nice, different WWII read. The focus of this book is the home front, and the ladies who, while not fighting on the battlefront, fought their own battles to stay positive and continue on, without knowing what the war would bring.
Our main characters are a meddling, scheming midwife named Edwina Paltry, the kindly, widowed Mrs. Tilling, whose son, David, is about to go off to war, and sisters Venetia and Kitty Winthrop. Venetia is eighteen and the town beauty, and is in love with the mysterious Alistair Slater, an artist who doesn’t want to fight. Venetia’s sister, Kitty, is thirteen, and dreams of becoming a professional singer. Besides our main four characters, there is the fierce Mrs. B, whose antics with the Chilbury Invasion Committee had me laughing out loud (beware the woman with a three-tiered cake stand trying to defend her house from Nazis!), sweet Silvie, a ten-year-old Jewish evacuee, Prim, who takes over the choir leadership, and Hattie, Venetia’s friend who is about to give birth. All of these characters were well-rounded, and memorable, and each had their own unique viewpoints and voices. I enjoyed reading about every one, even if some of them were nasty individuals, especially the terrible Brigadier, the father of Venetia and Kitty.
What I loved about this book, besides the characters, was the sense of life and love of living that came through. As the characters contemplate life and death and war, there are really some beautiful statements made about life and love that made me tear up.
Since the focus is WWII, there are some very sad sections in this book, especially as the Nazi planes start flying overhead. There were places in the book where I held my breath, praying that certain characters would survive, and other scenes where heroism comes from the most unlikely of characters. This is a book about humanity, all the terrible things that humans to do each other, but also all the wonderful things that humans do as well. And with the humanity comes music, and how music helps to heal in times of sadness, and lift those up when needed.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, or tales about humanity and the human spirit. There are definitely some unsavory characters here, but there are also beautiful characters that grow and change and inspire. While the setting of WWII is sad, this is a hopeful book, and I would call it heartwarming and inspirational. A must-read for those who love historical fiction, and this would be an excellent book-club selection!
Bottom Line: Beautiful historical fiction that weaves music and stories together to inspire the spirit.
Link to my Pinterest page inspired by The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir here
What do you think? Does this sound like must-read historical fiction? Does this sound like a different take on a WWII story?