It’s 1940 and the Chilbury village men, young and old alike, are called upon to fight to defend their heritage and their immediate future.
The Vicar leaves a note on the church noticeboard stating that ‘As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close’. This high-handed attitude rattles on the remaining but suddenly defunct females of the choir. Action has to be taken and it is …
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is the result and a few prominent members of both choir and village are prompted to divulge their thoughts, actions, and emotions through correspondence – letters are written; journals are jotted in and generally, the fictional village of Chilbury and its occupants, are brought to life in what is a very uncertain and frightening time.
I debated whether I wanted to read about an all-female choir but it was essentially the ‘glue’ that held all the characters together and propelled the sub-plots along within the main storyline.
Blackmail, black marketeering, village hierarchy and social status combined with a healthy dollop of romance all play a part in the unfolding drama but it is the diverse female characters – young and old – who symbolise what mental and physical reserves of strength were required to survive yet another German invasion when still experiencing the effects of the previous one some twenty years ago.
I especially warmed to the precocious but somewhat naïve 13-year-old Kitty Winthrop who starts a diary as a result of an announcement on the wireless that ‘keeping a diary in these difficult times is excellent for the stamina’. Her entries are funny, optimistic, deluded and very in keeping with an adolescent who feels she has a very old head on youthful shoulders when, in fact, her inability to understand the subtleties of life, make it both sad and funny at the same time.
The epistolary style of writing is reminiscent of other amazing reads such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and The Colour Purple by Alice Walker.
This novel will prove a very popular addition to any book club list – and at some future point in time possibly as a TV series.
This is Jennifer Ryan’s first novel and I look forward to reading whatever else she has in the pipeline.
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
by Jennifer Ryan
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand