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review 2017-04-27 00:46
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel - Jennifer Ryan


Jennifer Ryan

Hardcover, 371 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by Crown Publishing Group
ISBN:  1101906758 (ISBN13: 9781101906750) 
also on Kindle and Audio CD

Jennifer Ryan provided an interesting way to look at the town, Chilbury, during World War 2 in this novel. A small town setting, near Dover, England, mainly women, older men, and children remain due to the number of eligible men going into military. Ryan provides each of the main characters a voice either through letters or a diary entry. Each of the town's members have a story-from dealing with war torn England, secrets that townspeople have, loss of family members, and more. The local women start up a choir and find they are quite good. This tactic helps the author show multiple sides of the characters throughout the story; and the letter/diary approach allows the reader to see how the town setting is part of the story.

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review 2017-04-03 22:57
Review: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir - Jennifer Ryan

I would like to thank HarperCollins UK for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.


"It was as if on the edge of manhood he too remembered everything we had shared, that he was the man who was still, in his heart, my little boy, late for school.
And then he was gone."


The Childbury Ladies' Choir is told in diary entry format, jumping back and forth between the diary entries of the different characters. This format took a bit of getting used to, it didn't lend itself well to getting to know the characters as individuals. The characters were initially just names at the top of a diary post, there was nothing there that allowed me to create a mental image of them as a person. I had to differentiate each by their voice and it took reading a good few entries from each individual character before I managed to match those voices to something a little more substantial than just a name.


Once I was able to separate the characters I was then somewhat able to slowly build a mental image of each from the bits of information scattered across all the different diary entries. However, the pieces were a bit too scattered and I couldn't build as clear a picture of each as I would have liked, and as a result, the characters never felt real. I was outside looking in, reading their stories from a distance rather than experiencing them. They were almost strangers, strangers that I knew by little more than their name, and because of this I never found myself becoming immersed in the storyline or characters enough that I reached that point of forgetting I was reading a story.


Despite the above, I did still enjoy the book and I did learn a few things. It was fascinating to get a peek into village life during the war, but I found it easy to put down. I also found myself thinking of other books or TV programs that I have watched that are set during the war, taking what I had read in this book and placing more memorable characters from other stories into their situation, or comparing them, which made me realise just how distant I felt from the characters in the book.


Like I said, I did enjoy it while reading, it was an OK read but not a great read. I'm hesitant to recommend it because if like me, you like to have a clear picture in your mind and want to immerse yourself in the story rather than watch from a distance, then this isn't the book for you.





Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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review 2017-03-13 02:08
an enjoyable read about a town that finds a new identity because of the courage and resilience of its women!
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel - Jennifer Ryan

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Jennifer Ryan, author; Gabrielle Glaister, Laura Kirman, Imogen Wilde, Adjoa Andoh, Tom Clegg, Mike Grady, narrators
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir tells the story of a typical small community in England during the early days of WWII. Entirely through the journals, diaries and letters of the characters, over a period of about six months, from mid March to early September, 1940, the author highlighted their perceptions of the war and how long it would last. She coupled that with their slow realization that the war was indeed real and the battles would soon come to their little hamlet, with the harshness of the loss of their loved ones and the brutality and violence of the bombings, forcing them to deal with the consequences, the death and destruction. In the process, the author showed the fortitude and courage of some and contrasted it with the abominable behavior of some scoundrels who were only too willing to take advantage of the weakness of others, looting and conniving, forgetting morality and loyalty. When disaster struck, the women who were left behind to carry on when the men went to war, rose to the occasion and faced their responsibilities with determination and courage.
Some of the characters were more affable and likeable than others. I particularly liked Primrose Trent. Prim was the music teacher, newly arrived from London, who came with flowing cloaks and a large, colorful personality that exuded positivity and gaiety. She was the inspiration for the Chilbury Ladies Choir which came about because there were no longer many men remaining in their village. They had all gone away to aid in the war effort. While some of the women were more timid and fearful of starting an all female choir, she inspired them and encouraged them to soldier on and even arranged for them to participate in choir competitions. She taught the children in school, and in general, brought a lightness and calmer spirit to the village. Although some held more gruff opinions about the choir and the peculiarities of Prim, most appreciated her company and presence, in the end.
Even in a time of war, romance flourished, and the young and old found time to fall in love. The times did put a strain on some relationships, but as they all interacted with each other, for a common goal, they discovered a new understanding about themselves and those around them. It was through the writings and the revelations about these interactions that the struggles and strengths of the townspeople were revealed.
One of the characters, Silvie, was a young child who had been sent to Chilbury to live with the Winthrop family, for her own safety, hopefully to protect her from the Nazis. She was a Jewish child and her parents’ fate remained unknown. The Brigadier Winthrop was a mean, authoritarian man with a tendency to make threats and behave with brutal violence. Mrs. Winthrop, Lavinia, was a weak, but kind, little meek bird. She had just suffered the loss of her only son, Edmund, to the war, and while she was bereft, her husband was livid because his fortune was in jeopardy; it had to be passed to a surviving male relative. The Brigadier made an unscrupulous arrangement with the less than honorable town midwife, Edwina Paltry, to arrange for his pregnant wife to have a son. He had two surviving daughters, Venetia and Kitty. Kitty was in love with Henry Brampton-Boyd, heir to a family fortune, who was in love with her sister Venetia. Venetia was in love with an artist “Alistair Slater”, whose background was largely unknown and his occasional odd behavior was a source of confusion for her. Was he honorable or corrupt, a criminal or a traitor? Mrs. Tilling was a nurse. She was a bit standoffish, kind of overly proper, but she was kind to everyone except the man who was billeted with her, Colonel Mallard. She resented him because her son had only just gone off to war, and she wanted no one to occupy his room. There were several other interesting characters who came to life with the narrators excellent portrayal.
The story was told with a gentle wit and a light touch even when tragedy was depicted. The descriptions of the brutality of the war were authentic and truly imparted the emotions that the characters felt with the ominous drums of war beating daily. The bombings and the destruction were realistic. The loss and subsequent suffering was shattering. The ability to find joy and love in the face of the wartime despair showed the remarkable resilience of the community and its residents.
The war changed everyone in both good and bad ways. Heroes and scoundrels were made. Class distinctions were slowly losing their grip on society. The aristocracy was losing favor. Hitler was marching across Europe; he was leaving carnage in his wake, capturing and imprisoning innocent people because of their religion, sexual proclivity or lack of mental acuity.
I found the ending a little bit soft. It seemed a bit like a fairytale with everything falling into place neatly. I alternately read and listened to the book. Both mediums were great, but it was a special joy to listen to the audio which made the characters real for me as they were each presented with their own individual voice and personality. I felt like I got to know most of them fairly well, and their behavior represented the time period well. The sacrifice war necessitates was exemplified by the mothers who sent their children away for safety’s sake, the mothers and wives who lost their loved ones to the war and bore their loss heroically, all the women did whatever they could to help, sometimes risking their own lives in the process.
I won this book from librarything.com.

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review 2017-03-02 18:39
The Chilbury Ladies Choir
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel - Jennifer Ryan

Author: Jennifer Ryan

Rating: 3.5 stars


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.


Book Blurb: 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.


This was an enjoyable read. It reminded me of  The Guernsey Literary Potatoe Peel and Pie Society.  Like that book, this story is told through letters and journal entries. We are introduced to a series of women (and  a few men) who remain in Chilbury village during WWII.  


What I Liked:  The writing was enjoyable. The characters are quirky and likable. My favorite would have to be Kitty- the young girl coming of age during the novel. And the characters took surprising turns. I had my mind made up about a few- but lo and behold there was more beneath the surface.  I enjoyed being surprised.


What I Didn't Like: The book did seem to drag a bit. There are some pivotal parts of the war addressed, like Dunkirk, and it is handled well.  I can't pinpoint why I couldn't get as invested as I wanted to be with this novel. It was just... missing something.


Overall I would recommend it though.



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review 2017-02-25 00:17
The Chilbury Ladies Choir
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel - Jennifer Ryan

World War II provides the context for The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan, but the war is not the story itself. The heart of this story are the women of the small village of Chilbury in Kent, England. This story becomes about each woman finding her own individual voice and about learning that the voice can stand alone and can be heard. The end result is a charming story of women, love, and survival tempered by the somber circumstances.


Read my complete review at Memories From Books - The Chilbury Ladies Choir


Reviewed for NetGalley


Source: www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2017/02/the-chilbury-ladies-choir.html
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