The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is set in a small village in the south of England near the coastal town of Dover in the year 1940. The Nazis are occupying most of Europe and England is bracing for the inevitable fact that the war will soon be on their own soil. The book opens at the funeral of one of the town’s young men whose submarine met with a German torpedo. The church choir’s songs are notably missing the voices of the village men and the Vicar announces this will be the last performance of the Chilbury Choir.
Jennifer Ryan quickly sets this solemn backdrop in place, then moves forward to explore how life goes on and allows those facing peril to become their strongest and most risk taking self. The local midwife finds that turmoil can lead to financial opportunity. A young vixen finds herself a hero. The local busy body finds a way to see beyond her own ideas of right for the village good. Love, intrigue and chaos abound as all of these and other characters are skillfully united when the local music professor, Prim Trent, announces rehearsals for the new Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.
The story is told by allowing us to read the private journals and letters of the villagers. Each letter and journal entry pull the reader into the story of the evolving strength of the women of Chilbury. The Lady Chilbury Choir’s musical ability likewise grows as the women find the collective strength of their voices when combined. If you find yourself wanting to stay in this era just a bit longer after finishing the book, make some popcorn and watch the 1942 Academy winning film, Mrs. Miniver, based on the 1940 novel Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther, also available through the library system.