Publication Date: January 26, 2015
The Evening Chorus serenades people brutally marked by war, yet enduring to live — and relish — the tiny pleasures of another day. With her trademark prose — exquisitely limpid — Humphreys convinces us of the birdlike strength of the powerless.” — Emma Donoghue
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.
I will never tire of books that take place during WWII. Whether it’s a major piece of the story or the merest backdrop there is something about that time that fascinates me. The Evening Chorus is one of the finest books that I’ve read about that era…and I’ve read many.
The author uses the sparest language to describe what James, Rose, and Enid are going through and does so to great effect. There’s no need for flowery speeches or grand dramatic scenes. Their lives are hard, and their day to day efforts to survive are dramatic enough without the need for flourish.
I thought the use of nature in The Evening Chorus was a touch of brilliance. Even while a war rages on the world keeps turning. The tides keep rising and falling. The birds keep singing. Keeping an eye on the natural world around them helps the characters hold onto their humanity. That juxtaposition is just part of what made this book so wonderful.