The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan: Book Review

A historical novel, set in the English countryside

After having read Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, I was interested in dipping my toes a bit farther into the historical fiction waters. And, as I’d hoped, this debut novel by Jennifer Ryan was exactly what I needed.

This novel revolves around a (female!) choir.

I have spent all of my life singing: grade school choirs, church choirs, fronting my science teacher’s band in 10th grade, vocal music courses, regional chorus, and finally, classical operatic training. I’ve done it all!

This novel is written through diary entries and letters.

First person narration is my jam: even more exciting is when it is in the context of personal diaries and private letters.

With these things in mind, I chose not to look much more into it. Well, other than seeing a Goodreads rating of 4.08 when adding it to my currently-reading shelf.

Falling in love with stories of war (and not)

It was beautiful to experience the feeling of community via choir through the eyes of Ryan’s characters. I find that, in times of war, there is a very strong push towards bringing communities together. We see this most often with tangible, practical efforts to better the day-to-day lives of those touched by the physical destruction brought by war: be it a family torn apart or the wreckage of towns.

I very much enjoyed reading about the affairs and intricacies of the women of Chilbury, which didn’t always directly relate to the war or the choir, but somehow always came back to the importance of both. With the war effort being fronted by the men of the community, it was very powerful to see how their women counterparts continued with their daily lives. With war in the forefront of their hearts and minds, with brothers and sons away or killed in combat, the women of Chilbury still manage to carry on with somewhat normal lives.

How refreshing it was to read through the perspective of different ladies in such different stages of life: from the younger generation, through Kitty and Venetia, to the older generation, through Ms. Paltry and Mrs. Tilling.

I was particularly enthralled with Mrs. Tilling’s character. To experience and grow with her was a real treat. I honestly found myself snickering and smiling every time we switched to her perspective. If Jennifer Ryan came out with “The collected diaries of Mrs. Tilling”, I wouldn’t be mad!

My final thoughts?

My toes are pruney and I’m dipping the rest of my feet and legs into the historical fiction waters. Thank you, Jennifer Ryan!


I received an ebook of this novel from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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