Author: Jennifer Ryan
Summary: This beautiful epistolary novel gave each character a unique voice and was very moving.
“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.” (source)
I love epistolary novels and the first thing I noticed about this one was what a wonderful job the author did making each character sound distinct. The main characters include a scheming midwife; an upstanding but timid member of the community; a self-centered but beautiful young woman; a teenager who loves to sing; and a young Jewish refugee whose parents were unable to escape with her. I never had a hard time telling who was writing or keeping track of characters because each was given a writing style that suited who they were. The author also managed to include some really beautiful nature descriptions, touching moments, and exciting action scenes without breaking character.
In part because I got to know the characters so well, I found this book very emotionally engaging. I was invested in the characters. Even the more tangential stories made me feel emotional because the main characters were emotional about them. I’ve been wanting a book that would pull me into the story for quite some time and this book definitely delivered. It was also a success as historical fiction, giving me glimpses of many parts of life on the homefront in WWII Britain. Larger events of the war also impacted the lives of the main characters, something that always makes me remember more of the history I learn from historical fiction. I occasionally start feeling burnt out on stories about WWII, but this felt like a fresh new perspective to me. If you enjoy historical fiction, epistolary novels, and stories where everything is tied up neatly at the end, this is the book for you!