At first, I didn’t quite believe Jennifer Ryan’s The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir (set in 1940 England), mostly because of the epistolary form. It seemed unlikely that people could or would quote lengthy dialog exchanges verbatim. Also, the father was too villainous, the mid-wife’s crime too easily effected, and the happy ending unrealistically inclusive.
And yet, I like happy endings and I applaud authors who love humans and credit them with good reasons for their actions (or forgive them) and grant women the power they actually wield, even in some horrendous circumstances. Romance, mystery, history, danger, high values (loyalty, sacrifice, bravery, tolerance, kindness) made it overall a pleasant and upbeat read. So did music. The ladies sing beautifully and gain some recognition.
One passage is particularly worth noting, because the sentiment it reveals underlies the whole book. Mrs. Tillman observes privately that though one partner in a then illegal intimate relation had died, “fragile kindness in their love survived this poisonous war.” It’s a wonderful line, positing that kindness is a part of love, is itself fragile. That a trait of love is a real fact, perceivable by an outsider, present at least in one person, and perhaps in tone and atmosphere for the rest of the world, or those willing to see it.