This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Verity Wilde
James Hunter is in a German PoW camp after his plane was shot down on its first mission. To fill his days, he watches birds while others try to escape. Back in England, his young wife Rose is living in a cottage near the Ashdown Forest when she gets a letter from James’ sister Enid saying she has been bombed out and is coming to stay. Both have secrets, but edge towards a sort of friendship as they try to work through the changes the war has brought to their lives.
Set in 1940 and 1950, The Evening Chorus looks at how war and absence changes the course of people’s lives. It is a subtle and sensitive examination of James, Rose and Enid and I had sympathy with all of them – although each has flaws. But nature is at the heart of this novel – whether it is James and his bird watching through the camp fence, Rose and her dog or Enid wandering the fields and the forest. All the characters are damaged, but they find solace in the natural world, even if it cannot heal their pain entirely.
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When I finished the book, I felt that not a lot had actually happened. But on reflection, I realised that really quite a lot had changed, but that Humphreys has written about it in a very low key and subtle way – with characters, not events as the stars.Wartime novels are often populated by nothing but heroes and heroines – daring pilots who beat the odds, brave wives left behind and plucky single women taking on “male” roles in a dangerous world. But the characters in The Evening Chorus feel much more like normal people. And that for me was the best part of the book – seeing the events of the book through the eyes of subtle, understated characters that I could identify with, who didn’t always go charging into danger or who didn’t always do the “right” thing and then had to live with the consequences afterwards.