Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel, The Chilbury Ladies Choir, is an entertaining story that takes place during the Spring and Summer of 1940 in a small and charming English town that sits perched on the coastline of Kent, so close to the continent that on a clear day the villagers can see France. Told in epistolary style, the novel uses letters, journal entries, diaries and some notices to reveal the effect of the war on a community of women who struggle to contribute to the war effort, while maintaining a sense of normalcy, community and hope in a world that is rapidly crumbling around them.
While most of the able bodied men are away fighting the enemy, the casualties of war are just beginning to be felt in Chilbury. Amongst the first is the dissolution of village choir, for the local vicar declares there can be no choir without male voices. The subsequent establishment of The Chilbury Ladies Choir, by the magnificent Primrose Trent, music professor, is transformational to the women of the village in this story of grief, deception, struggles, romance and hope played out against the ever encroaching threats from the enemy.
Prior to writing The Chilbury Ladies Choir, Jennifer Ryan was a nonfiction book editor. Her background is evident in the accuracy of details regarding this particular time and place in history. She has created an entertaining, uplifting read that propels itself along through the actions of a cast of quirky and loveable characters. This book is a good choice for those readers who enjoy World War II historical fiction; books like The Postmistress, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and The Lilac Girls.