July 28, 2017
Welcome back! Thank you for reading, sharing, and following along! I think you’ll find this week’s featured selection fascinating. I love historical fiction and supporting women authors who write about strong women. You can also find me on Goodreads.
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
by Jennifer Ryan
Genre/category: historical fiction, women’s fiction
A notice pinned to the Chilbury Village Hall notice board, Sunday, 24th March, 1940 reads: “As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close.” (Signed The Vicar)
Facing an impending Nazi invasion, the ladies of Chilbury, England pull together under the strong leadership and persistent encouragement of new choirmaster, Prim, to resurrect the choir as a ladies choir. This heartfelt historical fiction story is told from multiple perspectives and voices in diary and journal form. As author Jennifer Ryan states: “At the beginning of the war, an organization known as Mass Observation began, encouraging ordinary individuals to keep diaries and journals and send them into headquarters, where some would be published in a newsletter.” The ladies were serious in supporting the war effort in every way and their earnest writings combine to tell an inspirational story of what it was like to be a woman in the wartime 1940s, working outside the home to support the war effort, finding their voice, and their exploration of independence without their men. Some readers might be concerned that this is simply a collection of these writings: however, I can assure readers that this reads as one complete work and the individual perspectives flow seamlessly from viewpoint to viewpoint and add to the complexity and richness of this heartfelt, charming, and inspirational story. Throughout the narrative, a cast of charismatic and memorable characters emerges as the women face the uncertainties and hardships of war, resolve village problems as they arise, and a few enjoy a bit of romance. Amazon rating: (July) 4.4 Stars
Church choirs. Even though the choir in this story has ties to the church, it functions more as a community choir. How many of you have participated in a traditional small church or a community choir? If you have, your experience will add to the enjoyment of the story as you read. I was reminded repeatedly of the dear choir director at my home church. Directing the choir was one small part of her ministry. She developed a supportive musical community and she actively recruited and sought out new members because she sensed that each could benefit from the other. This musical community was safe and members were unconditionally loved. Yes, the choir performed a musical function in the church but so much more was being accomplished in the members’ personal lives which in turn enriched the others in the wider community. The way the community choir functions in this story reminds me so much of my experience with our cherished choir director! When a reader can make a personal connection it adds to the richness of the reading experience! I wonder if this story will affect you in the same way. The choir represented themes of unconditional love, commitment to a group, the importance of belonging, and the healing power of acceptance. The music teaches us that beauty can be created in the worst of circumstances, and illustrates the power of music to unify, inspire, and uplift.
This is an uplifting story of strong independent women making a difference in their world. It’s humorous, romantic, and filled with interesting characters of all ages who show us a fighting spirit. It speaks to the power of love and song. Also appreciated is that this was not difficult, heavy, or intense historical fiction (as so many are). I’m hoping this story will be made into a movie as I could envision a movie in my mind as I read! Highly recommended for readers who love historical fiction (light) and a story about strong women. Appropriate for young adults. My rating: 4 stars
Meet the Author: Jennifer Ryan
“The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir 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.” More about Jennifer Ryan: jenniferryanbooks.com Twitter: jenryanbooks
“Ah…how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Next week I’ll be reviewing “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn (historical fiction) if you’d like to “buddy read.”
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Please share your reflections on The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you currently reading?