Joanna Trollope is a brilliant writer of what became known as 'aga sagas' about usually middle class country folk and their lives and lifestyles.
In 'The Choir' she captures perfectly the rarified atmosphere of a Gloucestershire Cathedral Close and the intrusions of the real world into its hallowed halls, sometimes from unexpected sources!
The basic premise is how far people are prepared to go for what they believe in, be that religion, love, music, reputation or a combination of all of the above!
The choir has existed for hundreds of years, but now it is under threat as chain of events unfolds which threatens the ordered, traditional world of the Cathedral. We see how the characters struggle with their own demons in order to preserve what they love most and the sacrifices that have to be made along the way.
Trollope writes a rollocking good read which is unputdownable, but also has poignant insights into the characters' lives and frailties. Trollope writes with humanity and understanding even about the most unsympathetic of characters! It could perhaps be classed as 'chick lit' by some but is of a very high quality and certainly casts a new light on the goings on in the upper echelons of the religious world and the world of a cathedral choir! If that sounds off-putting then don't be fooled; this is a real page-turner and you learn something about a different arena of life in every Joanna Trollope novel, whether it be about The Rector's Wife or Other People's Children! I loved this book and, as the cliche goes, was sad to say goodbye to the characters at the end!
Give it a go!
Being from a musical background, this was definitely a book for me. I have to admit that I am a little bias, as the television adaptation was filmed in the local area, and I saw this before I read the book. Nevertheless, this is, and has remained, one of my favourite books over the years.
Some might say that Trollope's writing is a bit predictable; I think that's a fair point because from the first few chapters, you've got a reasonable idea of what's going to happen. That said, you never know how it's going to happen, and Trollope's writing cleverly takes you on a journey through what seems a completely unconnected set of plots and characters. In this book, it isn't until the final chapter that it suddenly all seems to be tied together.
To give a brief idea of the plot, a Cathedral choir is faced with the axe after the building is found to need millions of pounds of repairs to stop the roof falling in. This is a book about what we value most in life; as one of the characters says, it's all very well saving the building, but at what cost? Will it just be an empty shell?
Despite the predictability of the plot, Trollope is excellent at describing her characters, and you can see them immediately in your mind's eye. Having read some of the her other novels, there nearly always seems to be a character for everyone to relate to and empathise with.
This is what we might call a 'light read', or dare I say it, a 'holiday read'. It is a novel which is well-crafted and well-executed though, and the technique requires to pull that off successfully is one of Trollope's greatest assets.