Book review – The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown

11 Jun

New Year’s Eve, 1940: Evie Chase, the beautiful debutante daughter of a rich and adoring RAF commander, listens wistfully to the swing music drifting out from the ballroom, unable to join in the fun. With bombs falling nightly in London, she is determined that the coming year will bring a lot more than dances, picnics and tennis matches. She is determined to make a difference to the war effort. 5th January, 1941: Evie curses her fashionable heels as they skid on the frozen ground of her local airfield. She is here to join the ATA, the civilian pilots who ferry Tiger Moths and Spitfires to bases across war-torn Britain. Two other women wait nervously to join up: Stella Grainger, a forlorn young mother who has returned from Singapore without her baby boy and Megan Jones, an idealistic teenager who has never left her Welsh village. Billeted together in a tiny cottage in a sleepy country village, Evie, Stella and Megan must learn to live and work together. Brave, beautiful and fiercely independent, these women soon move beyond their different backgrounds as they find romance, confront loss, and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.

I first heard of The Beauty Chorus over on Talli Roland’s blog. I love the title which was the nickname given by fighter pilots to the women who volunteered to fly planes like Spitfires from factories to British airfields during World War Two and thought it sounded like a fab historical fiction read so headed straight over to Amazon to download it for my Kindle. This book appealed to my love of novels that shed light on the roles of women in historical events that may not have been obvious and my interest in modern history. In The Beauty Chorus Kate Lord Brown skillfully combines the true historical facts (166 women joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) risking their lives to ferry planes across the country) with the fictional story of three very different women to create a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking novel.

Evie, Stella and Megan are the three leading ladies whose paths cross when they are accepted to join the ATA and are housed together in a tiny countryside cottage.  Evie is fiery and forthright; rich and glamorous but despite having led a privileged life is determined to pursue her own path and loves flying above all else. Stella, a wife and mother who has fled Singapore for England, leaving her young baby in the care of his grandparents has the heaviest burden initially and is struggling to deal with loss and separation, turning to the ATA to take her mind off the pain. Megan is the youngest of the group, full of fun and thoroughly enjoying her first experience of living away from home but always with a view to returning to run the family farm and have her own airstrip. I found it impossible to decide on a favourite character as all three are well written with believable background and individual stories and there is something in each of them that will appeal to readers of all ages.

The book is cleverly written, mixing the everyday lives of the girls and lighthearted moments with grittier undertones dealing with sexism, loss and betrayal. Kate Lord Brown perfectly captures the attitude of the female pilots that their task was simply something to be done; there are no big egos amongst the female characters and they seem to take everything in their stride despite the fact that they were flying planes unarmed and without radios and actively coming under enemy attack. Enemy attack isn’t the only threat to the girls and some of the male character’s reactions to their female colleagues surprised me with my perhaps naive notions that everyone pulled together for the war effort!

In addition to the core story of the ATA girls, The Beauty Chorus is an excellent fictional novel combining drama, mystery and a good dose of love and romance which keeps the story flowing and had me reading as quickly as I could to find out what would happen next to the characters that I’d become very attached to. My only criticism is that the ending was left far too open for my liking. I’m one of those people who likes everything tied up nicely and the book left me wanting to know what happened next to the girls so I’ll be first in the queue for a sequel if Kate ever decides to write one :-)

I’d highly recommend The Beauty Chorus to adult and young adult readers alike; before reading this novel, I had no idea about this particular role for women in World War Two and I love that Kate has given them and this important part of history a voice.

5/5

You can find out more about Kate Lord Brown and The Beauty Chorus at: http://www.katelordbrown.com/

3 Responses to “Book review – The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown”

  1. Sharon Goodwin 11th June 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Wow Amanda, 5/5! Recommendation indeed. I downloaded this for my Kindle after you told me of an offer and now, I’m really eager to read it. Sounds like a really absorbing read. Thank you.

  2. Bookalicious Ramblings 11th June 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    This sounds like a fascinating story! Thanks for the review!

  3. carol 12th June 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Lovely review.

    I had seen this one and it is on my wishlist.

    carol

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