Book Review

February '17

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir (Hardcover)
Jennifer Ryan

 I am frequently asked to recommend something "light but good," and here is my latest suggestion.  Published February 14, 2017, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is a good, escapist read.

This story is set in the small English town of Chilbury, during a few months in 1940.  As the men have left to fight in World War Two, the church's Vicar declares that the choir must be abandoned - lacking male voices, it could not exist. The ladies, who had taken on many of the absent men's responsibilities, respectifully disagreed. "Just because the men have gone off to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!" they asked.  The Vicar reluctantly agreed to let them try, though he was quite sure that a ladies chorus would be - lacking. Organized by Professor Primrose Trent, of London, women in town banded together to "carry on singing." The all female choir became a new family. Working together, they created beautiful music for christenings, funerals, even entering and winning a competition.  Together, they shared their joys and losses, finding the music and companionship an important part of their lives.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is written by a first time author, Jennifer Ryan.  She tells the tale through a series of letters between the five main characters, and journal entries, a very effective device. ( It reminds me a bit of the very popular Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society in this way.) The story, inspired by the writer's grandmother, contains elements of romance and domestic issues as well as themes of drama and intrigue, espionage and trickery, life and death.  A subplot about a young refuge girl from Czechoslovakia adds an especially humanizing element to the war story.

This new book has been sold for TV to the production company that brought us Downton Abbey, so stay tuned!