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The Evening Chorus (2015)

av Helen Humphreys

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
22824119,116 (4.1)99
The story of James, a pilot struggling to survive in a German POW camp, his young war-bride, Rose, back in England trying to make sense of her life, and his sister, whose own story is also rewritten by the tragedies of WWII.
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Visa 1-5 av 24 (nästa | visa alla)
I picked this book from the library shelf on a whim. What a gem. Inspired by, though not based on three true events, this lyrically told story sees the war and its aftermath from the perspective of three people, each intimately bound in each other's lives, but ultimately dealing with what confronts them in their own way, alone. It begins with James in his German POW camp, finding solace in his intimate record of the lives of the redwing family he can just about see from the camp confines. There is Rose, his wife in their cottage in an English village; Enid, his sister, living and working in London. And then there is Toby, working in James' and Rose's village; Constance, Rose's difficult mother ... and the POW camp's Kommandant. All have their roles in this story in which the actual horrors of war have no place, but which illustrates vividly its power to alter lives, to constrain, and yet to offer hope too. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
Lyrical and slightly off kilter, generous in spirit and particularly lovely to read. Like all of Helen's books, it rewards the reader. ( )
  Dabble58 | Nov 11, 2023 |
Helen Humphreys is one of those quiet, understated writers. She starts out just telling a fairly simple story. James Hunter is a prisoner of war. He has been shot down in his first bombing raid over Germany. His new wife, Rose, is left alone with barely enough time spent with him to forge a real memory. His sister, Enid, bombed out of her apartment in London. What Humphreys does with this simple, perhaps common, set of circumstances, is remarkable. She opened the lives of these people for inspection so masterfully that I scarcely realize what had been done before I was lamenting that the narrative had come to an end.

In a clever, but subtle, manner, Humphreys builds her book around an observation of birds. James is a birdwatcher and uses his hobby to keep himself sane while held in prison. References to birds occur throughout the book and nature is present everywhere as a kind of glue that holds the otherwise chaotic world together. When man has lost his way, nature lives and thrives.

This is my third Humphrey’s and I can see that she is a new favorite author for me. As in The Forgotten Garden, I kept marking passages that I didn’t want to forget.

It struck me that life at any time and in any guise comes with the same complications. Loneliness and faded memories and rash decisions are always there.

This is the problem with time, thinks Rose. It doesn’t follow its own rules. It stretches or compresses at will. It’s either a lingering house guest or an escape artist.

We are always pressed to choose.

It’s so hard to get life right, she thinks, pulling the blanket tight around her shoulders. All the small balances are impossible to strike most of the time. And then there are the larger choices.

And often we make the wrong choice. And who is to say that the choice that is right for us is not the one that destroys someone else?

Another time might be easier than this one, but there’s only the time you’re in, thinks Enid. And it’s always going to be lacking somehow. Best to spend some of your moments here on earth noticing what else is here with you instead of concentrating solely on your own misery.

Humphreys understands life as a journey, and one that cannot always be controlled or directed. She understands love as well, and that it isn’t always static or predictable.

It’s not only love that isn’t the same again but every moment of a life. And just as one doesn’t love two people the same way, one feels that some moments are much more important than others, but that isn’t apparent from the vantage point of the moment itself.

I highly recommend this book and I’m off to find another Humphreys. So nice to know I have several to go before I am caught up and, blessing for me, she is still writing, so there will be more to come.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Love in the time of war. This book tells the story of Rose, a young bride at the start of World War II and her husband, a soldier and bird watcher. The multiple points of view let you inside the main characters varying emotions as they adjust to this new life. However, most of the secondary characters seem one-dimensional.

[I won this book as part of the Goodreads's First Reads program] ( )
  Anietzerck | Oct 9, 2019 |
For a relatively short book there is a lot packed into it. And, of course, given the author the writing is lyrical.

James Hunter's plane is shot down on his very first mission. When he is picked up by a German boat from the English channel the first words he hears are "For you, the war is over." He spends the next 5 years in a German prisoner of war camp. Back in England his new bride, Rose, is living in a small cottage on the edge of Ashdown Forest in Sussex (in a quirk of fate the cottage is near Forest Row which is the town my husband's grandfather lived in before he went off to join the Merchant Marine). She has a job and she is the blackout warden for Forest Row and she has got herself a dog but she still finds time hangs heavy on her hands. Then she meets another airforce officer staying in the village and they have an affair. Rose falls in love with this man and wonders if she ever loved James. In the prison camp some men try to escape but James sees that as futile. So he decides to undertake a "proper study" of a pair of redstarts that are nesting in a stone wall just outside of the prison grounds. At first this activity is viewed as suspicious but when he explains to the Kommandant what he is doing he finds a kindred spirit and is given the green light. James tries to interest Rose in his study by suggesting she find a similar nest and observe it but Rose is not keen on nature study. James' sister Enid, who has come to stay with Rose after her London apartment was bombed, does like the natural world and she gives her days over to studying the flora and fauna of Ashdown Forest. So amongst the horrors of war people manage to find beauty and grace; even after the war these characters are appreciative of small wonders and this helps them heal from the tragedies they experienced during the war. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jul 11, 2019 |
Visa 1-5 av 24 (nästa | visa alla)
Absorbing, richly characterized, and marked by smart, delightful twists and turns, the novel’s fruitful visitation of war and its aftermath never fails to captivate. If there is such a thing as a cultural vocabulary of war, Humphreys adds welcome new words to it.....In highlighting the wondrous (if at times vexing) unknowability of our lives — that a sudden impulsive idea, or a decision to turn left instead of right, can usher in unforeseeable consequences — The Evening Chorus artfully imagines how that might play out for one quartet. And with her usual faultless eloquence, Helen Humphreys makes our witnessing of their causes and effects memorably instructive.
 
Though Humphreys’s prose is characteristically elegant and restrained, from time to time she allows the novel’s avian theme to get out of hand...The Evening Chorus, when all is said and done, is a formally conventional but for the most part satisfying yarn; a quiet novel about a calamitous event whose most trenchant passages show the cast of Humphreys’s poet’s eye: “The song of the redstart begins as a melody and ends in dissonance, as though the song itself comes undone in the process of singing it, finishing up with all the right notes presented in the completely wrong order.”
 
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The dark swallows will return and again hang their nests on your balcony and strike your window with their wings. But those that slowed their flight to see your beauty, and those that learnt your name and mine, those won't return.
- GUSTAVO ADOLFO BECQUER
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For Phyllis Bruce
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James Hunter falls through morning.
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The story of James, a pilot struggling to survive in a German POW camp, his young war-bride, Rose, back in England trying to make sense of her life, and his sister, whose own story is also rewritten by the tragedies of WWII.

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