The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel by Jennifer RyanThe Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel by Jennifer Ryan

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel

byJennifer Ryan

Hardcover | February 14, 2017

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“A delightful debut.”—People 

For readers of Lilac Girls and The Nightingale, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir unfolds the struggles, affairs, deceptions, and triumphs of a village choir during World War II.

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.
 
An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.
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.
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Title:The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 9.5 × 6.4 × 1.2 inPublished:February 14, 2017Publisher:Crown/ArchetypeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1101906758

ISBN - 13:9781101906750

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great summer read! I bought this and read it in two days ... I didn't want to put it down even though I had other awesome things to do. The characters all have their own voice and the story line has you hooked all the way through. Definitely a delight to read! I passed it onto my daughter and will also be sharing it with my mom!
Date published: 2017-07-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Brings the women and their choir to life World War II has reached England and the small town of Chilbury on it's east coast hasn't escaped it's ravages. Most of the able bodied men have enlisted, leaving the women to fill their traditional roles. It comes as a shock to some of the women in Chilbury when the vicar announces that due to the lack of men, the esteemed village choir will close. Primrose Trent, the new music tutor, soon after re-opens the choir to the mixed reactions of the women. Some of them can't imagine a choir without male voices and other realize that they can't stop living just because the men have left to defend their freedoms and very lives. I enjoyed the interplay of the characters, particularly how being a small town and in an extra-ordinary situation helped batter down the barrier of the social classes. I could easily imagine stuffy Mrs. B. looking down her nose at Prim and predicting doom for the new choir. As much as there were many characters to love, there were also those that you loved to hate, mainly Edwina Paltry, the mid-wife, and the nasty Brigadier Winthrop (why wasn't he doing anything constructive for the war). Many of the other women I would have been most at home with for an afternoon of tea and conversation. The mixing of fact and fiction makes for an easy to learn some British war history. An all women's choir was a new thing and the women involved gained strength from participating. After lives spent being in the shadows of the men, women were finally given the opportunity to show that they were capable of a great many tasks previously thought above them. At first, I tried listening to the audio book and found I didn't like it at all. Even though there were different voice actors, all the characters sounded the same. I thought they were all 40 years old, and they all seemed to be putting on these pretentious, snotty upper class accents. The effect of the letters and diary entries was totally lost by not seeing them in writing. I was going to give up the book entirely when I spoke with a co-worker who read the paper version and loved it. She encouraged me to give it another try. I'm glad she did, the paper version was wonderful. I was better able to enjoy the format of the correspondence and get a true image of the characters particularly fourteen year old Kitty and ten year old Czech evacuee Silvie, both of whom I had thought were middle age ladies on the audio. This is a well told story that had me cheering for the successes of the women and mourning with them at their losses. This is a wonderful debut novel by author Jennifer Ryan. I look forward to her future works. #IndigoEmployee
Date published: 2017-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read I enjoyed this book. WW 2 and a ladies choir. This book was charming sad fun with some interesting characters.
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Charming The Chilbury Ladies Choir is a heartwarming novel set in England during World War II. It is an epistolary novel told through letters and journal entries of several women in the town of Chilbury. What is most charming are the unique personalities of the characters - the widow, the busybody, the refugee, and more. With all the men gone to war, they are forced to recreate their choir as "Ladies Only". There are secrets, romances, triumphs, and great sadness too which takes the reader on a continual roller coaster of emotion. I am not surprised that this book has reached national bestseller status. It is sure to please!
Date published: 2017-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life In The Village 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.
Date published: 2017-02-16

Read from the Book

MRS. TILLING’S JOURNALTuesday, 26th March, 1940First funeral of the war, and our little village choir simply couldn’t sing in tune. “Holy, holy, holy” limped out as if we were a crump of warbling sparrows. But it wasn’t because of the war, or the young scoundrel Edmund Winthrop torpedoed in his submarine, or even the Vicar’s abysmal conducting. No, it was because this was the final performance of the Chilbury Choir. Our swan song.“I don’t see why we have to be closed down,” Mrs. B. snapped afterward as we congregated in the foggy graveyard. “It’s not as if we’re a threat to national security.”“All the men have gone,” I whispered back, aware of our voices carrying uncomfortably through the funeral crowd. “The Vicar says we can’t have a choir without men.”“Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely at a time when we need it most! I mean, what’ll he disband next? His beloved bell ringers? Church on Sundays? Christmas? I expect not!” She folded her arms in annoyance. “First they whisk our men away to fight, then they force us women into work, then they ration food, and now they’re closing our choir. By the time the Nazis get here there’ll be nothing left except a bunch of drab women ready to surrender.”“But there’s a war on,” I said, trying to placate her loud complaining. “We women have to take on extra work, help the cause. I don’t mind doing hospital nurse duties, although it’s busy keeping up the village clinic, too.”“The choir has been part of the Chilbury way since time began. There’s something bolstering about singing together.” She puffed her chest out, her large, square frame like an abundant Field Marshall.The funeral party began to head to Chilbury Manor for the obligatory glass of sherry and cucumber sandwich. “Edmund Winthrop,” I sighed. “Only twenty and blown up in the North Sea.”“He was a vicious bully, and well you know it,” Mrs. B. barked. “Remember how he tried to drown your David in the village pond?”“Yes, but that was years ago,” I whispered. “In any case, Edmund was bound to be unstable with his father forever thrashing him. I’m sure Brigadier Winthrop must be feeling more than a trace of regret now that Edmund’s dead.”Or clearly not, I thought as we looked over to him, thwacking his cane against his military boot, the veins on his neck and forehead livid with rage.“He’s furious because he’s lost his heir,” Mrs. B. snipped. “The Winthrops need a male to inherit, so the family estate is lost. He doesn’t care a jot about the daughters—” We glanced over at young Kitty and the beautiful Venetia. “Status is everything. At least Mrs. Winthrop’s pregnant again. Let’s hope it’s a boy this time round.”Mrs. Winthrop was cowering like a crushed sparrow under the weight of Edmund’s loss. It could be me next, I thought, as my David came over, all grown up in his new army uniform. His shoulders are broader since training, but his smile and softness are just the same. I knew he’d sign up when he turned eighteen, but why did it happen so fast? He’s being sent to France next month, and I can’t help worrying how I’ll survive if anything happens to him. He’s all I have since Harold passed away. Edmund and David often played as boys, soldiers or pirates, some kind of battle that Edmund was sure to win. I can only pray that David’s fight doesn’t end the same way.The war has been ominously quiet so far, Hitler busy taking the rest of Europe. But I know they’re coming, and soon we’ll be surrounded by death. It’ll be like the last war, when a whole generation of men was wiped out, my own father included. I remember the day the telegram came. We were sitting down for luncheon, the sun spilling into the dining room as the gramophone played Vivaldi. I heard the front door open, then the slump of my mother’s body as she hit the floor, the sunshine streaming in, unaware.Now our lives are going into turmoil all over again: more deaths, more work, more making do. And our lovely choir gone, too. I’ve half a mind to write to the Vicar in protest. But then again, I probably won’t. I’ve never been one to make a fuss. My mother told me that women do better when they smile and agree. Yet sometimes I feel so frustrated by everything. I just want to shout it out.I suppose that’s why I started a journal, so that I can express the things I don’t want to say out loud. A program on the wireless said that keeping a journal can help you feel better if you have loved ones away, so I popped out yesterday and bought one. I’m sure it’ll be filled up soon, especially once David leaves and I’m on my own, thoughts surging through my head with nowhere to be let out. I’ve always dreamed of being a writer, and I suppose this is the closest I’ll get.Taking David’s arm and following the crowd to Chilbury Manor, I looked back at the crumbling old church. “I’ll miss the choir.”To which Mrs. B. roundly retorted, “I haven’t seen you instructing the Vicar to reverse his decision.”“But, Mrs. B.,” David said with a smirk. “We always leave it up to you to make a stink about everything. You usually do.”I had to hide my smile behind my hand, waiting for Mrs. B.’s wrath. But at that moment, the Vicar himself flew past us, trotting at speed after the Brigadier, who was striding up to the Manor.Mrs. B. took one look, seized her umbrella with grim determination, and began stomping after him, calling, “I’ll have a word with you, Vicar,” her usual forthright battle cry.The Vicar turned and, seeing her gaining pace, sprinted for all he was worth.

Editorial Reviews

"A delightful debut."— People"This well-written and absorbing tale will stay with the reader for a long time to come."— Bookreporter"Compelling and exquisitely wrought."— Bookpage"These strong, unforgettable characters will keep you reading late into the night. I could not put this wonderful book down."— The Missourian“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“The Chilbury Ladies' Choir sinks you deep inside the rich, intricate atmosphere of an English village in the middle of war, when quiet lives are upended and secrets unravel. With her unforgettable characters and vivid narrative, Jennifer Ryan creates the kind of wartime novel that plays out over the intimate territory of the human heart—full of soul, full of hope. You’ll be thinking about this book long after the last page turns.” — Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of A Hundred Summers and The Secret Life of Violet Grant“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 the Inspector Ian Rutledge series