The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir – Jennifer Ryan

The parallels between this book and [book: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society] are obvious – both epistolary novels about women on the homefront of England as WWII heats up, telling the story from several women’s points of view. Here there is a choir instead of a book club, but it is the story of villagers coming together to endure the horrors of the war at home.

Regardless, though, this is a lovely book. The likeable characters are very likeable, and the unlikeable ones are truly loathsome (at about the halfway point I was all but praying for the death of one). The women’s individual voices as evidenced in letters and journal entries are fairly distinct, especially the youngest, Kitty, the precocious had–been–youngest child of the local blue bloods. Her voice might be a little too precocious, a little too adult, in its language, but its attitudes are pretty much dead on.

Except … I continually find it deeply frustrating that girls and women who know better engage in the sort of behavior Lavinia (?) does. “I’m being careful”, she says. And then she is shocked – shocked, I say! – when after sleeping with her inamorato every chance she gets she finds herself – gasp! – pregnant. Never saw that coming! Passion. I get it. I do. But for heaven’s sake, why does “passionate” automatically mean “stupid”? I mean, if you go to the worst part of town and leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition, you have basically requested that your car be stolen. If you drink for several hours and then weave your way out to your car, you have tacitly agreed to having – or causing – an accident. If you decide to play golf with some nice metal clubs in the middle of a thunderstorm with heavy lightning, you have indicated your willingness to be struck by lightning. And if you have unprotected sex with someone who just doesn’t care … well. The girl is young – but she’s not stupid, and – as evidenced by her comment about being careful – she knows that sex leads to pregnancy, unlike girls left in ignorance in previous centuries, when sex was too awful a subject to be discussed and so girls really are shocked by what that nice man wants to do and by the result. Just once, I feel like I’d like to see a reaction from someone more along the lines of “Welp, that was predictable.”

But, still and all, it was a very enjoyable book, slotting neatly into the shelf next to “Guernsey”, with enough of its own personality to remain discrete. “We have prayer enough to light up the whole universe, like a thousand stars breathing life into our deepest fears.” Nice. Very nice.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

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