The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir opens in March 1940 in the English village of Chilbury. The story is primarily told through the diaries and letters of five women, although there are some other voices heard along the way. When most of the local men go off to war, the local vicar decides to disband the church choir.
Jennifer Ryan has written a moving story about the way the start of World War II affected a village near the coast of Britain. Using the letters and journals of four main characters, Ryan humanizes history, using a mixture of humor, horror, pathos, and the banality of evil. We learn about the social and political forces in town through choir members’ letters and journal writings.
Ryan’s choice of telling this story through 4 or 5 individual letters and diaries brings too many voices and can be confusing, which leads to no one character becoming worthy of our attention. Ryan uses a mixed first and third-person narrative, but with the narrator shifting every few pages, it becomes confusing. Another way, in which this novel fails, is that her characters are flat caricatures. None of them have any depth and they never become real. There are some characters that could be real, but no time is spent or attention to make them interesting.
I thought a story about a Choir and WWII would be fascinating but was disappointed. If you don’t mind 5 different voices moving the story you may be able to get through it. I received a copy of the eBook from Crown Publishing and Net Galley for my review.