Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir

5.0 3
by Jennifer Ryan

See All Formats & Editions

"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!"
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


"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!"
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.

Told through letters and journals, THE CHILBURY LADIES' CHOIR moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit-- a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past-- we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life. In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1940, at a time when women’s roles were still firmly rooted in home and hearth, the ladies of Chilbury, England, find themselves at the bleeding edge of progress as the ramifications of World War II begin to infiltrate their little town. The men of Chilbury head to battlefields, and the village choir becomes the first casualty of the war. When a female professor of music insists the choir can be reassembled as a ladies’ choir, the small community is at first scandalized by such an idea. But this is soon lost to other more salacious events. There is the brigadier who hires an unscrupulous midwife to swap his baby girl for a boy, and his teenage daughter seduces a handsome artist who’s come to town under mysterious circumstances. An upstanding single woman (a widow whose only son has gone to fight) is tapped to take a colonel into her home, and a 10-year-old Czech evacuee finds out what happened to her family. As the war advances on Chilbury, even more lives are changed when a German bomb kills a young mother as well as the choir mistress, young men are sent off to war, and spies and black market profiteers lurk in the quiet lanes. Told in the form of diaries and letters in the voices of the female characters, Ryan’s novel, reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, captures the experience of the war from a woman’s perspective. Readers may have come across this kind of story before, but the letter/diary format works well and the plot elements satisfyingly come together. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“There's so much happening in Chilbury: intrigue, romance and an unforgettable cast of characters who aren’t always as they appear. The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is a charming slice of English wartime life that warms the soul like a hot toddy."
-- Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls

"Lyrical, poetic, emotional, funny, endearing, surprising – it is a masterpiece."
-- Veronica Henry, author of An Eligible Bachelor

“World War II in an English village seen through the eyes of the most delicious cast of characters you’ll ever meet—The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is a masterpiece of secrets, misdirection, village gossip, and gleeful disregard for anything but the main chance, as the Home Front learns to carry on. Seldom do you find a writer with such a deft touch—Jennifer Ryan sweeps the reader along to the very last page in a remarkable debut. “
--Charles Todd, New York Times bestselling author of Racing the Devil

Library Journal
It's 1940, and the European continent is being overrun by Hitler's troops. In Chilbury, Kent, England, the women are doing their best to maintain morale and that includes keeping the choir going despite the lack of male voices. Mrs. Tilling is a nurse whose son is about to leave for France. She is keeping a journal, as does young Kitty Winthrop, just 13, but her entries relay a good deal of what's happening. In fact, the entire novel is composed of journal and diary entries, notices, documents, and correspondence. An unscrupulous midwife enters into a nefarious plot with Brigadier Winthrop. Kitty's older sister, Venetia, is playing a dangerous game by seducing the artist Mr. Slater. Within six months, the village undergoes many changes as war edges closer to home. Unfortunately, debut author Ryan miscalculates the credibility of her novel's structure and her narrators. Would the vile Miss Paltry reveal her illegal dealings in letters to her sister? Would Venetia be injured by an errant bomb and still find the wherewithal to pick up pen and paper? VERDICT The stalwart ladies of the choir deserve better. Not a necessary purchase. [See Prepub Alert, 8/26/16.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
While their men are off fighting the Nazis, the women in the English village of Chilbury struggle to carry on.Though the action spans only a few months in 1940, a lot happens: there are bombings, a nefarious baby-swapping scheme, passionate love affairs, acts of espionage and of great valor. The Chilbury women, it seems, are always being tested. What binds them together and lifts their spirits is their participation in the local church choir, transformed with the advent of war from a coed chorus to an all-female one. The story is told through the women's letters and journal entries, which can make for some clumsy exposition. Key figures include the sensible widow and nurse Mrs. Tilling, the scheming midwife Miss Paltry, Kitty Winthrop, a plucky, headstrong 13-year-old, and her older sister, Venetia, the town beauty and a heedless flirt until she falls hard for a secretive artist. All are borderline stock characters, and little that happens in the book is unexpected—though the brutality of Brig. Winthrop, Kitty and Venetia's father, does come as a bit of a shock. The author also tends to tell rather than show: asked if she thinks that singing will help the women get through the war, the choir director answers, "Music takes us out of ourselves, away from our worries and tragedies….All those cadences and beautiful chord changes, every one of them makes you feel a different splendor of life." Real tragedy visits the town, but it doesn't fully register. And subplots involving homosexuality and abortion seem designed to make a period piece feel more contemporary. Still, the book is well-paced, especially in the second half, and readers may find themselves furiously turning pages even if they can easily predict what's coming next. Mildly entertaining, Ryan's debut novel seems overfamiliar and too intent on warming the heart.

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

JENNIFER RYAN lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband and two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a nonfiction book editor.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
gaele 5 days ago
Chilbury is a small village in Kent, with all of the dramas, intrigues and community that one would expect. But there’s one small hiccup: at the onset of war, the Vicar has decided that the choir, now bereft of male voices because of the volunteers and call ups, will be disbanded until the “boys come home”. This becomes the story of the women of the choir, and their efforts to keep that one bit of community alive in a time when they feel it is most necessary, despite the lack of support from their vicar. Told in a series of letters and diary entries, this story is not wonderful because of the ‘newness’ of the subject, nor are the characters we meet full of bonhomie and good will. These are ordinary women, faced with extraordinary circumstances and changes that rock the foundations of all they know, as they struggle to survive and support the war effort from home. Thrust into positions that they are unprepared for, these women are learning as they go: running households, farms, shops and their communities. This doesn’t make them saints, they all have a solid streak of ‘get on with it, even as they all show they are human and subject to worries, cares and uncharitable thoughts. What emerges is a highly personalized version of those left behind during the war: the struggles they faced, the personal challenges they overcame and the knowledge gained that forever changed them, and their country. Each character is carefully developed and explored: you hear their voices, you can picture their lives and worries, and a full image of the story and the moments arise with the author’s careful insertions of history, scenery and people. A book that draws you in and demands attention, yet allows you to savor the moments, reveling as if on a quiet bench looking on. I’ve read it 3 times in the six months I’ve had it available, and just want to dive back in again! If you enjoy a quieter and subtly complex story that introduces characters, conflicts, resolutions and community with equal attention paid, this is the book for you. Certainly one of my favorites for the year. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
mkdmom 4 days ago
I received a ARC of this book from Net Galley for an honest review. I have always been a fan of historical fiction, especially novels set during WWII, so I was excited to read and review this book. What a wonderful story. Told through the point of view of four main characters using their journals, diaries, and letters we learn of a small English village at the onset of the war. I enjoy reading books that use this means to tell a story...very engaging and a great way to feel like you "know" the characters. Unlike recent books I've read set in this time period, this book dwelt more on the women in the town and how they banded together to make it through the hard times, rather than a book that examines the horrors of war. Not to say that there were not heartbreaking developments in the story, but it was more a story of female empowerment and awakening. Highly recommend for fans of women's fiction and/or historical fiction.
MaureenST 4 days ago
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a series of letters and journal entries that capture a time from March to August 1940 in a small English Village, and a time that we all know now is the advancement of Germany in Europe. We meet the people of the village and what they are going though during this period, and learn history at the same time, guess I was not aware that England was being bombed at this era. A lot does happen here in this quaint town and we quickly turn pages to find answers, so of which we are not going to be happy about. These people are really open about their feelings and speak very openly in their written words, and we feel like we are watching them in real life. You are going to really like some of these individuals and others walk on the shady side, and I had to chuckle at the end of the book about one of them. A real eye opener of life in England prior to America getting into WWII, and yes I remember that Pearl Harbor awakened a sleeping giant, and the German’s must have been cringing when that happened. I received this book through Blogging For Books, and was not required to give a positive review.