Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan


chilburyLet me start by saying I loved this book. Couldn’t put it down and now I am aching for more from this author.

We start with a notice pinned to Village Hall noticeboard:

As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close following Cmdr. Edmund Winthrop’s funeral next Tuesday.

The Vicar

This is an era where women didn’t usually speak up for themselves but there were a few strong female voices in this village. Why not continue and have a ladies choir? It would be a morale booster in such dismal times. Scandalous!   These  stories focus on the resourcefulness of women during very difficult times. It’s not solely about the choir so if that sounds like a snooze – think again.

There is quite a cast of characters in this book. The stories are told through diary entries from several points of view as well as letters penned to friends and loved ones.  As you read bits and pieces the story lines dovetail into a fairly satisfying conclusion – tales of affairs, deception, blackmail, love, bravery and great sadness. If your reading tastes include stories set in the WW II era in England and you like a journal and letter writing format – you will LOVE this book.

You’ll get to know so many personalities from the village in the early days of WW II.

There are the Winthrops, a high society family with an overbearing father called the Brigadier. He bullies everyone and has secrets which could land him in jail. His daughters, Kitty and Venetia, tell the stories of the village, the war effort, and the forming of the Ladies Choir.

From Kitty Winthrop’s Diary
“ They announced on the wireless that keeping a diary in these difficult times is excellent for stamina, so I’ve decided to write down all my thoughts and dreams in my old school notebook…..”

Besides Kitty’s diary entries you have the point of view of Mrs. Tilling, a nurse, and 10 year old Czech evacutee Silvie. Between the diary entries and the interspersed letters from Venetia Winthrop to her friend Angela Quail living in London and letters from Miss Paltry to her sister, you will enjoy several interwoven stories and slowly piece it all together.

I became a fan of Mrs. Tilling and loathed Miss Paltry.  Now I am wondering when the author will produce another novel because I am anxious to read more.

As I like maps, a bonus was the legend and map in the beginning so you can follow the characters around.


More about the author:   Jennifer Ryan was born in Kent, England and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and children.

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