Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Jennifer Ryan  

By Lynn Willoughby

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir ~ Jennifer Ryan

Reading the reviews of this book I expected it to be much like the The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society.  It was, just not as good.
This book is a series of letters, diary entries and newspaper clippings that give us insight into the private thoughts of all the main characters, often containing verbatim conversations which I found off-putting.  It takes place in Chilbury, a small town in Kent in southern England.  The story is set in a span of about one year in 1939-40.
The vicar has announced there will be no more choir as almost all of the men in the village are away at war.  Enter Primrose Trent – a music professor who comes to live in Chilbury (I never understood why).  She is all about music and insists that the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir can work, will lift spirits and help with the dreariness of the days in Chilbury.
This is a debut novel and had the potential to be so much better.  While we learn about the village, the schoolteacher, the abusive Brigadire, the Jewish refugee and the sly midwife who is no one’s friend, I just never connected emotionally with anyone.  The storyline is all too predictable and while there is deception, romance and intrigue it all seemed very contrived.
I had high hopes for this novel, but it turned out to be just the usual village life – gossip, jealousy and unwanted pregnancies happening in 1940.

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