Friday, April 28, 2017

"The Chilbury Ladies' Choir" by Jennifer Ryan

I love World War II-set novels, but most of the novels I've read are either about members of the US military or are set in Nazi-occupied territory. What really drew me to The Chilbury Ladies' Choir was its setting—a small English village where most of the men have gone to war.

As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past. 

An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is a joy to read! It's entirely told through letters, journal entries, and posted notices. While many characters' letters and journals comprise the novel, four characters are front and center: Mrs. Tilling, a widow whose son has gone to war; Venetia Winthrop, a beautiful, vain, self-centered young woman; Kitty Winthrop, Venetia's younger sister who is in love with one of Venetia's suitors; and midwife Edwina Paltrey, a woman willing to do anything to make money. All of these women grow and change throughout the novel, which is part of what makes reading it so much fun.

As I read the novel, I couldn't help but think it would make a fantastic series in the vein of Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife. Though the war is the backdrop, it's really about the lives of the villagers—their loves, losses, scandals, and triumphs.

The Chilbury Ladie's Choir is a fantastically entertaining novel. I'm so glad I read it! 5 stars.

Buy the book.

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.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product free for review from through its Vine reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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