Friday, December 09, 2016

699 (2016 #54). The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

by Jennifer Ryan

It's March 1940 in the fictional village of Chilbury, in Kent in England.  The vicar of the local church has just posted a notice that, because the male voices are gone due to the war, the choir will be disbanded.  The women left in the group disagree, and with the help of a new female music tutor in town, they form the Chilbury Ladies' Choir.

Margaret Tilling, sisters Kitty (13) and Venetia (18) Winthrop and Silvie (the ten-year-old Czech refugee living with them), and the devious midwife Edwina Paltry tell the story through letters, and diary and journal entries (along with a few from a few other characters) over the next six months, as World War II affects the town.

The first four women are in the choir.  Edwina is not, and it is her story that I found least plausible.  Nevertheless, the book is enjoyable, particularly with the well-defined character development in Margaret, Kitty, and Venetia.

Debut author Jennifer Ryan said she was inspired by her grandmother's stories of the war in England, where Ryan grew up.  In her acknowledgments at the end of the book, she also refers to Mass Observation, a project to "record everyday life in Britain," which recruited about 500 volunteer writers to keep diaries from 1939 into the 1950s and 1960s.  The diary of  Nella Last in particular informed Ryan's writing.

A number of songs the choir (or others) perform are specifically mentioned in the story.  I can see a playlist created of these songs to be played in the background during a book club discussion.

I would recommend this book especially to fans of World War II women's fiction.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this advance reader edition through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

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