Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys

Downed during his first mission, James Hunter is taken captive as a German POW. To bide the time, he studies a nest of redstarts at the edge of camp. Some prisoners plot escape; some are shot. And then, one day, James is called to the Kommandant’s office.

Meanwhile, back home, James’s new wife, Rose, is on her own, free in a way she has never known. Then, James’s sister, Enid, loses everything during the Blitz and must seek shelter with Rose. In a cottage near Ashdown forest, the two women jealously guard secrets, but form a surprising friendship. Each of these characters will find unexpected freedom amid war’s privations and discover confinements that come with peace. The Evening Chorus is a beautiful, astonishing examination of love, loss, escape, and the ways in which the intrusions of the natural world can save us.

The Evening Chorus by widely acclaimed author, Helen Humphreys is a poignant drama about the lives of three people during World War II. First, there is James, a pilot captured by the Germans who languishes in a POW camp. His wife of six months, Rose, is left alone in their small country cottage. And James' sister Enid whose affair with a married man ended when her home in London was bombed and he was killed. She fled to Rose's cottage to avoid the scandal. What makes this novel so poignant, so unique, is the simplicity with which it is written. The prose flows invisibly, making it impossible not to fall completely and utterly into the story. The tale is steeped in symbolism. James becomes fixated on a family of birds across the barbed wire fences, their freedom, and their movements providing a distraction from the horrors of the POW camp and making his life as a prisoner productive. Then there is Rose and he clings to her in his memory, a thread of hope for his survival. But Rose feels the isolation of being alone and she has fallen in love with another army pilot, their affair secret to everyone. Enid too has secrets of her own and the days she spends with Rose are filled with mystery and discord. 

Hauntingly beautiful, and highly thought provoking, this book is an excellent choice for book clubs. It is an outstanding piece of women's fiction by a widely praised author. I highly recommend this novel. Beautiful on every page!

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