Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir  by Jennifer Ryan   384 pages

Before she decided to write a novel, debut author Jennifer Ryan was a nonfiction book editor. Her novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, shows remarkable talent for a beginner. I believe she is going to be a writer with many national bestsellers if her first outing is any indication. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, but I believe that this work shows incredible talent.

The story takes place in England beginning in March 24 and ends on September 6, 1940, as England is inching closer and closer to joining the world at war. The local vicar of Chilbury has decided that since no men are available to add their voices, that the choir should be suspended. The village women completely disagree with the vicar.  

It’s not easy, what with the shortages and all. But they form their own little Band of Sisters and vow to keep going. This is their story: the struggles, the heartaches, deceptions, romances, sacrifices.

The story is narrated in an epistolary manner, through journal/diary entries and letters. An ensemble, five different women, narrate the events of the five-and-a-half month time period. And boy is there a lot going on!  At first it was difficult to tell the speakers apart, but after about 50 pages, it was very easy to discern each individual voice.

According to her bio, Ryan based her novel “on the stories of my grandmother who was twenty when the Second World War began, mostly hilarious tales about bumping into people in the blackout, singing in the air raid shelters, and the freedoms women had during the war years--the excitement and romance. She also belonged to a choir, and her choir stories dramatized the camaraderie and support they all took away; the knowledge that they weren't in this alone. The The Chilbury Ladies' Choir uses my dear grandmother's stories as its backdrop.

I enjoyed the highs and lows the ladies endured. Their last performance at the book’s ending satisfying, but the story seemed to wrap up a bit too quickly after that. For this reason and the earlier difficulty, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir receives 4 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world. I would lie to add that I would like to see these characters again, perhaps in future novel. I want to know how, and if, Mrs. Tillings; Venetia Winthrop and her younger sister, Kitty; Sylvie, the Jewish refugee, and the local midwife, Edwina Paltry, they make it through WWII.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. 

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