Book Review: Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Release date: February 14, 2017

I was delighted to win a copy of this book from a giveaway.  This is an honest review in no way swayed by the complimentary receipt of the book, and this post contains affiliate links.


“Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!”

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. In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.

My review: 4/5 stars 

Ever since I first sent my loved ones away to war, I’ve gravitated to stories of how women carried on and survived the second World War.  Although I in no way pretend to understand what life was like with regular bombings, with no communication, there’s something about their lives that I identify with.

Jennifer Ryan’s Chilbury Ladies’ Choir  offers  a wonderful glimpse into a time where everyday life was simpler, where community meant everything, where friendship was something done in person rather than via social media. In fact, the story is told through a series of letters and journal entries in its entirety.  And these written words bear witness to the amazing character transformations – –  and revelations – – as the women of Chilbury and those they love change in the face of fear of what war means. Ryan’s pacing and her cadence make for a well-written book that is easy enough to read and welcomes the reader in via the experiences of multiple women.

I wanted the book to go on. Although the story ended at a good point, I have the benefit of historical hindsight and know the characters were in for years more of war,  and I want to know how life turned out for them all in each phase of WWII.

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