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The Chilbury Ladies' Choir : a novel
2017
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Mrs. Tilling (Female), Widow, Mother, Keeps a diary; her only son is about to be sent to France to fight
Kitty Winthrop (Female), Student, Her father was abusive; her mother is pregnant; her father was a commander killed in the war
Primrose Trent (Female), Teacher, Moved from London to a small town where she is to be the new music teacher; brings the choir back
Genre
Fiction
Historical
War
Domestic
Epistolary
Topics
Teachers
Diaries
Female friendship
Midwives
Correspondence
Women's lives
World War II
Village life
Church
Choirs
Teenage girls
Letters
Women in war
Setting
England - Europe
Time Period
1940 -- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

It's 1940, and the European continent is being overrun by Hitler's troops. In Chilbury, Kent, -England, the women are doing their best to maintain morale and that includes keeping the choir going despite the lack of male voices. Mrs. Tilling is a nurse whose son is about to leave for France. She is keeping a journal, as does young Kitty Winthrop, just 13, but her entries relay a good deal of what's happening. In fact, the entire novel is composed of journal and diary entries, notices, documents, and correspondence. An unscrupulous midwife enters into a nefarious plot with Brigadier Winthrop. Kitty's older sister, Venetia, is playing a dangerous game by seducing the artist Mr. Slater. Within six months, the village undergoes many changes as war edges closer to home. Unfortunately, debut author Ryan miscalculates the credibility of her novel's structure and her narrators. Would the vile Miss Paltry reveal her illegal dealings in letters to her sister? Would Venetia be injured by an errant bomb and still find the wherewithal to pick up pen and paper? VERDICT The stalwart ladies of the choir deserve better. Not a necessary -purchase. [See Prepub Alert, 8/26/16.]-Bette-Lee Fox, -Library Journal © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

In 1940, at a time when women's roles were still firmly rooted in home and hearth, the ladies of Chilbury, England, find themselves at the bleeding edge of progress as the ramifications of World War II begin to infiltrate their little town. The men of Chilbury head to battlefields, and the village choir becomes the first casualty of the war. When a female professor of music insists the choir can be reassembled as a ladies' choir, the small community is at first scandalized by such an idea. But this is soon lost to other more salacious events. There is the brigadier who hires an unscrupulous midwife to swap his baby girl for a boy, and his teenage daughter seduces a handsome artist who's come to town under mysterious circumstances. An upstanding single woman (a widow whose only son has gone to fight) is tapped to take a colonel into her home, and a 10-year-old Czech evacuee finds out what happened to her family. As the war advances on Chilbury, even more lives are changed when a German bomb kills a young mother as well as the choir mistress, young men are sent off to war, and spies and black market profiteers lurk in the quiet lanes. Told in the form of diaries and letters in the voices of the female characters, Ryan's novel, reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, captures the experience of the war from a woman's perspective. Readers may have come across this kind of story before, but the letter/diary format works well and the plot elements satisfyingly come together. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
NATIONAL BESTSELLER<br> <br> "A delightful debut."-- People <br> <br> For readers of Lilac Girls and The Nightingale , The Chilbury Ladies' Choir unfolds the struggles, affairs, deceptions, and triumphs of a village choir during World War II.<br> <br> As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to close the choir and instead "carry on singing," resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies' Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past.<br> <br> An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan's debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.
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