I’ve been on a World War II reading kick lately. It’s not been anything intentional; just a coincidence that I’ve been getting those magical emails informing me that books that I requested long ago are now suddenly available. First, there was The Lilac Girls (review to come soon). Now, I’m starting The Women in the Castle. Sandwiched in between was Jennifer Ryan’s The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, a tender, revealing look into how the women of Chilbury village survive—and in many cases, take on new strength—during a war that that comes closer and closer to their doorsteps.
If you’re into literary comparisons, I’d offer Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as the closest match to The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. It’s not just because both stories are told from various perspectives, presented in the form of diary entries or letters. It’s also that—from what I remember, at least—both books are filled with the sweet and the bitter, the romance and the tragedy of life, particularly lives during war. At times, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir might skew a bit too optimistic in how it wraps everything up for its characters. Maybe it’s because some of the stories that I’ve been reading lately have been a little dark, but I overlooked this and appreciated that though this story wasn’t light reading, it had a lightness to it that made me feel good. As Beatriz Williams writes--and she knows her historical fiction--this book is “Full of soul, full of hope.”
When the book opens, the Vicar has just put an end to the Chilbury village choir because all of the male members have gone to war, and it’s just not done to have an all ladies choir. But when the well-traveled Prim arrives in their village, she convinces the female members of the now-disbanded village choir to form a ladies’ choir. We quickly learn that the members of the choir have varying reasons for agreeing to this unusual request: there’s sadness and desperation, ambition, and FOMO, among others. But what begins to draw our women together is an increasing awareness that the war isn’t as far away as they thought, and that the ladies’ choir has become more and more important to themselves and to their village.
There's sadness and devastation in this book, but there's sweetness, too.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books, but all opinions included here are my own.
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.