Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir (Book Review)

Title: The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
Author: Jennifer Ryan
Publication: Crown hardcover, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
Plot: When all the men in the town of Chilbury leave to fight in World War II, the vicar tries to cancel the village choir. But when the ladies muster a little gumption, they realize they can have a choir by themselves, perform well on their own, and enjoy themselves! Chilbury is full of intrigue and drama, providing a female perspective of war in letters and diary entries. The story follows several members of the choir: timid but beloved Mrs. Tilling; sisters Venetia and Kitty, both looking for love, daughters of an unpleasant retired Brigadier; Hattie Lovell, a newlywed expecting her first child; and Edwina Paltry, the villainous midwife. When the Brigadier asks Miss Paltry to make sure his wife delivers a boy, so his estate will not pass out of the family, he sets in motion a plot that will impact two families. Unfortunately, he is one of the few men left in Chilbury. Others include the seemingly gruff military officer with a soft heart, billeted with Mrs. Tilling; a mysterious artist, whose heart Venetia is determined to capture; as well as several young men who reappear on leave or when wounded.

The English cover reminds me of K.M. Peyton
Audience: Fans of historical fiction, especially books set during WWII and covering activity on the home front. While it is not as charming as D.E. Stevenson’s novels, I think those fans would enjoy it.
My Impressions: This was a fun read, albeit somewhat predictable. I liked the descriptions of daily life in the village and how the characters dealt with shortages and the challenges of the war. I enjoyed seeing Mrs. Tilling gain in self confidence, and smiled at the contrast between boy crazy Venetia, beautiful enough to attract any man she wants, and her younger sister Kitty who suffers from unrequited love – and occasionally the spitefulness of Lady Edith Crawley.

Quibble: Although the author is ostensibly from London, the book read more as if an American had written it. There were many “likes” when I thought the author should have used “as” and this irritated me. I also suspected that, in this more modest era, the characters would not have used the word “pregnant” so casually, especially 13 year old Kitty.
Source: This book came from my old library in Watertown, MA. Another WWII book appeared on my library reserve list soon afterwards, The Women in the Castle, which I am also enjoying, although it is a much darker story.

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