Staff Picks: Remembering The Stories of World War II

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Those who remain behind during war sacrifice greatly and many serve quietly to carry their countries forward. Stories of camaraderie and strong bonds are often remembered by those who have lived through the most difficult days of war. Staff at the John Marshall branch library share a few of their favorites as we celebrate Memorial Day.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir: A Novel by Jennifer Ryan

Inspired by the recollections of the author’s grandmother, this story of a small town women’s choir is told through journals and lettersChilbury Ladies Choir. As war erupts on the European continent in 1940, England remains untouched for a short while. Teas and young people’s dances continue in the small coastal town of Chilbury, while fears in Europe escalate. The encroaching war, however, becomes more a reality every day. The boys are recruited and leave home. A young Jewish refugee arrives, alone, sent by her family to protect her from the Nazi occupation of her native Czechoslovakia. With the insecurity of the times, the Chilbury Church becomes the spiritual and social center of the little Kent village. The choir is the heart of this church. With the men now gone, can the beloved choir continue? The Vicar says no to an all woman choir, but the determined new director, Primrose Trent, says why not? “Let’s carry on singing!”

And so they do.

The choir of women grows to include girls and women of all ages and backgrounds. The war soon becomes a dark and angry shadow over Britain, but ironically joy arrives as these women thrive and give back through their music and love for each other.

When the German bombers finally hit the English shores, the idyllic town of Chilbury is one of the first to see destruction. Beloved members of the community are taken, and the women left behind rise to take responsibility for others. Through it all, the music of the Chilbury Ladies Choir gives strength and sees the villagers through the darkest of times.

“The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir” is an exemplary story of the empowerment of women during war years. The audiobook, also available at the library, is delightfully read by a cast including Gabrielle Glaister, Laura Kirman, Imogen Wilde, Adjoa Andoh, Tom Clegg and Mike Grady. The voices of the women’s choir can be heard at some of the most touching places in the story.

If you are interested in other stories of Britain on the homefront during WWII, you may enjoy Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, or do a subject search for “World War, 1939-1945, Fiction” in the library’s online catalog.

∼ Deborah, Branch Manager, John Marshall branch library

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Sometimes I come across a book that I love to recommend to people of all ages. This children’s novel is set in England during World War II. Ada is a young girl with a club foot that has never been fixed. Her mother is embarrassed by her and forbids her to leave the London flat they live in. Sadly, Ada watches out the window while life goes by her, and Jamie, her younger brother, plays and goes to school. When the evacuation of London children is announced Ada is determined that she and Jamie get on the train and escape from their abusive mother. Once they arrive in the countryside, they stay at Susan’s home, and get to ride ponies and have adventures. Yet while we are cheering for Ada’s escape and new life, the specter of the war and their mother loom in the background.

Other recent good World War II reads include The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo, In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen and In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear.

∼ Veronica, Circulation, John Marshall branch library

Book listsreviews from our book clubs and favorites from library staff are great resources when searching for your next book. Or stop by the reference desk at your local library.

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