I added The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan to my list of books to watch out for after reading a review by Ami from Luv To Read. Ami loved the book and in her review praised the story for focussing on the people who carried on at home during World War Two as best they could, which is a different point of view than many other stories set during this time.
The story is told using the letters and journals of the various female characters who live in Chilbury, in Kent in 1940. Many of them are members of the Chilbury Ladies Choir, which was formed after the Vicar announced the closure of the regular choir since so many of the men had left to go to war.
There are a number of stories going on at the same time, including a scheme between the enormously unpleasant Brigadier Winthrop and an unscrupulous midwife to swap new-born babies in order to keep the Chilbury Manor estate in his family. Another story-line follows the Brigadier’s beautiful young daughter as she falls in love with an artist who may or not be a spy or a black-marketeer, while another plot-line follows his younger daughter, who desperately wants to be grown up and important.
Other characters and storylines follow a lovely widow whose only son has gone off to war and a stand-offish Colonel billeted with her, a young Jewish evacuee from Czechoslovakia, a bossy older woman who was opposed to the choir, a young mother and the music teacher who brought the choir together.
As the story takes place, the characters endure the bombs that drop on them and witness frightening dogfights between their own RAF planes and German planes, all the while trying to do the best they can for themselves and (in most cases), for each other.
Some of the letters seemed too contrived and read as if their only reason for inclusion was to advance particular story lines. I also found that some of the descriptions went on for far too long, but the story itself was heartwarming.
The Chilbury Ladies Choir seemed to me to have been written on purpose to be a movie or even better, a musical, particularly the scenes with the choir. I think I’ll like this better as a film than as a book.