"The Evening Chorus" by Helen Humphreys

James Hunter is an English officer who spends much of the Second World War in a German prisoner of war camp.  The men in the camp all find their own way to deal with the boredom day in and day out, and James is no different.  He decides to study a pair of birds, redstarts, he finds near the camp.  But when his interest in the birds is noticed by the Kommandant he begins to fear for his life.

James’ wife Rose, is back in England, doing the work of a dutiful wife whose husband is off at war.  But her attention is held by another young man with whom she is having an affair.  When James’ sister Enid comes to stay after being bombed out of her home in London, it puts Rose in an awkward situation.  The women form an unlikely friendship but their lives are about to be changed forever.

The Evening Chorus, by Helen Humphreys, is a beautiful and easy tale, a story about political history and natural history, love and war.

There is such an incredible lightness to this book, a beautiful read, a gentle story that packs a punch.  I have to admit that when I first took a look at the book, I wasn’t sure that it would be for me.  It was the birds that threw me off.  But I read the book because of my love for CanLit.  And I am very glad that I gave it that chance.

I think it takes incredible writing talent to tell a simple story in a simple manner and have it remain with readers long after the long page.  That is what this book is all about.  I adored the stories of Rose and Enid and found myself so invested in these two women who are living lives in which they can’t be open and honest about themselves.  Against the backdrop of war, these are incredible stories.  And while I was unsure of it at first, James’ story held me tight, whether the horrors of the camp or the gentleness of the birds.  

It’s not often we get a quiet novel about war, one that doesn’t focus on the politics or the front lines, but the beauty and hope that lies in this world.  I was so amazed by how this book touched me when I wasn’t expecting it at all.  This book is incredibly touching and thought-provoking.  It’s not in your face but in your thoughts, and gets you thinking about how we live our lives.  It is such a contrast to the busy lives we lead.  The strength of this book lies in its writing, one feels as though they are floating through the story.  It makes me happy to be able to recommend a book that I didn’t think would be for me at all.  


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