Pub Date: February 14th, 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 homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.
What Did I Think About the Story?
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is, for me, perfect historical fiction. Told through the letters and journal entries of various women living in the small village of Chilbury in England, the reader gets to view WWII from a very unique perspective and to see, through the eyes of these women, how the war effected those on the home front in a myriad of ways. Through participation in this women's choir and through the support and strength of each other, the women of Chilbury are able to grow as individuals and as a community, immerging stronger as a result of the sadness, horror, and loss they each go through.
Making this story an epistolary novel is absolutely brilliant. Being presented as letters and journals we are able to see right into the hearts and heads of these women to not only learn what happens to them and those they love but to see the emotions and anxieties that drive them. I felt completely drawn to these women (most of them at least...I was not a fan of Edwina Paltry, the midwife at the center of a particularly seedy conspiracy at the heart of the story) and became quite invested in what they were experiencing. Having these varying perspectives also allows the reader to get such a wide scope of the war and to really see how it affected so many different people. In this one novel we are given a conspiracy (with Ms. Paltry's letters to her sister), a coming of age story (through young Kitty Winthrop's journal), a fraught romance (in Venetia Winthrop's letters to her best friend), a mother's struggle to not live completely for her son and learn to find some strength and joy for herself (through the journal of Mrs. Tilling), as well as the heartache and uncertainty of a Jewish evacuee (through the sporadic journal entries of Sylvie, the young Czech girl living with the Winthrops). So many emotions and conflicts existing in one novel, yet fully developed given the nature of the way the stories are presented. Just brilliant!
Beyond learning about each of these women individually (and, through their eyes, other women and men in their village), having them all be a part of this choir was so fun to read. It was great seeing how they created this close knit family-like community and how the simple act of singing not only brought joy to each of them but also created a safe space to mourn and gave them a cathartic way to express their warring emotions. It also served to give strength to some of them when they needed it most, and a soft place to rest when others couldn't keep going on their own. There is so much loss within this story, but there is also hope and love and bravery and I felt wholly satisfied when I turned that final page.
Needless to say, I absolutely adored The Chilbury Ladies's Choir. Given the wide scope of the various perspectives within the story and the immense emotion showcased, I would recommend this novel to anyone wanting to really connect to a story and not only learn a little more about the "war at home" during WWII but to discover some amazingly brave and beautiful characters. I cannot wait to see what this author does next!
What Did I Think About the Cover?
This cover is GORGEOUS! It perfectly reflects the charming English village brought to life within the pages and highlights our women who are central to the story. The planes flying above are also important to the story and could also represent the looming danger and fear brought on by the war. I have very much enjoyed staring at this cover as I've read the book!
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Be sure to continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the rest of the tour!
Praise for The Chilbury Ladies' Choir
“There’s so much happening in Chilbury: intrigue, romance and an unforgettable cast of characters who aren’t always as they appear. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a charming slice of English wartime life that warms the soul like a hot toddy.” — Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls
“Lyrical, poetic, emotional, funny, endearing, surprising – it is a masterpiece.” — Veronica Henry, author of An Eligible Bachelor
“The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir sinks you deep inside the rich, intricate atmosphere of an English village in the middle of war, when quiet lives are upended and secrets unravel. With her unforgettable characters and vivid narrative, Jennifer Ryan creates the kind of wartime novel that plays out over the intimate territory of the human heart—full of soul, full of hope. You’ll be thinking about this book long after the last page turns.” — Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of A Hundred Summers and The Secret Life of Violet Grant
“World War II in an English village seen through the eyes of the most delicious cast of characters you’ll ever meet—The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a masterpiece of secrets, misdirection, village gossip, and gleeful disregard for anything but the main chance, as the Home Front learns to carry on. Seldom do you find a writer with such a deft touch—Jennifer Ryan sweeps the reader along to the very last page in a remarkable debut. “ — Charles Todd, New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge series
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About the Author
Jennifer Ryan lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and their two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a nonfiction book editor.
See the Author Discussing Research and Writing with Distractions
TLC Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, February 13th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, February 14th: Building Bookshelves
Thursday, February 16th: Reading Reality
Monday, February 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, February 21st: Laura’s Reviews
Thursday, February 23rd: BookNAround
Friday, February 24th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Monday, February 27th: A Chick Who Readsr
Thursday, March 2nd: Savvy Verse and Wit
Monday, March 6th: Bibliotica
Tuesday, March 7th: West Metro Mommy Reads
Thursday, March 9th: Joyfully Retired
Friday, March 10th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, March 13th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, March 14th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Wednesday, March 15th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, March 16th: Just One More Chapter
Friday, March 17th: Art @ Home
Monday, March 20th: Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, March 22nd: A Literary Vacation