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Friday, July 14, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir
ISBN: 9781101906750
Publisher's Synopsis:
As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead 'carry on singing'. Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir", the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit -- a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past -- we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life.

"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir?
 And precisely when we need it most!"
MrsK's Review:
During the early days of WWII, this small English village will become astonished by the determination of the Ladies' choir. Not only will they defy the local Vicar, they will face many of their own struggles as they prepare for a competition in which men are a requirement. Five women will provide background knowledge, insights, point of views, and ultimately the culminating truth about the joys and sorrows of a small village and its war efforts. 

Mrs. Tilling knows first hand what war "feels" like. Her son David has just enlisted and now that the reality of funerals has come home to Chilbury she will find herself linked to war efforts beyond the headlines. She heard that writing your thoughts in a journal will help in times of stress. Her journal will provide a framework, one in which we will view all of the living within the village.  She can be the force behind the Ladies' choir if she is willing to step beyond her comfort level and embrace living. Of course she will get a supportive nudge by a renter known as the Colonel.

Edwina Paltry is a midwife. She has dreams of buying back her childhood home for her sister Clara. Through a series of letters to Clara, we discover the depth of her desired goal and at what cost will she be influenced to attain that goal. Her voice is disturbing. Her deceptive behavior keeps you on guard.

Kitty Winthrop comes from an affluent family. She has one older sister, Venetia. Her older brother was killed in the North Sea. Her father is a Brigadier and occasionally travels to London. In her diary entries, the village, the people, and the choir is vividly portrayed. Her ambition is to be singing before an audience in London and Paris. The war will bring a maturity to her young voice, yet some choices will create an ugly outcome in which Kitty will need forgiveness.

Venetia Winthrop is a young adult who has decided that she wants more than what Chilbury can offer. An inspiring artist, Mr. Slater, has come to Chilbury and entices Venetia to be his portrait model. Venetia agrees and becomes hooked in all of the wondrous thrills of young love. For her, the war efforts and the choir will be less important. Through a series of letters to her friend Angela, Venetia will reveal the truth about young love. When Mr. Slater vanishes, Venetia will face a crossroad in which she will choose the support from those whom have been in her life all a long. 

Silvie is a young cousin who has been sent to live out the war at the Winthrops. Through her diary entries, with the candid voice of a youngster we learn what happens within the Winthrop's home. Her descriptions of the air-raids and bombings are reminders that this war was in fact reality.

As with any historical fiction about war time, a reader expects certain depth in characterization and plot. There are many fractured lives in a village that wasn't prepared for the devastation of war-time occupation. 
Worth reading!
Meet the Author:
 Jennifer    Ryan  Hello, I'm the author of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, which came out in February, 2017. It is my very first novel. Before becoming a writer, I was a nonfiction book editor, editing books about politics and economics, travel and health, and biography and memoir. I worked in London before moving to the Washington, DC, area ten years ago with my husband and two children.

I was born in a village in Kent, England, not too far away from the fictional village of Chilbury. The novel is based 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 Chilbury Ladies' Choir uses my dear grandmother's stories as its backdrop.
"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."
Penguin Random House

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