The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown

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The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Kate Lord Brown shines a light on a little-known area of the war effort in WWII - the Air Transport Auxialiary Unit and brings it to life with some wonderful characters. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: April 2011
Publisher: Corvus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781848878709

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On New Year's Eve 1940 Evie Chase decided that the next year was going to be different. She was tiring of dances and parties when bombs were falling on London and wanted to do something positive to help the war effort. Within five days she was having her interview to join the ATA – the Air Transport Auxiliary Unit – at her local airfield. The ATA ferried planes to other airfields across the country and she waited to join up along with two other young women. Stella Grainger had lost her husband in Singapore and had left her baby son with his grandparents in Ireland and Megan Jones was a teenager who had never before left her Welsh village.

The girls are very different, particularly in their backgrounds and their motives for joining 'The Beauty Chorus' – the name by which the ATA was affectionately known – but they're billeted together in a very basic cottage and somehow they get on. Over the coming months they grow closer, find romance and suffer dreadful losses. But first they have to get through their basic training and Evie's trainer is Wing Commander Beaufort – Beau to those who aren't obliged to call him 'Sir'. He's rather unusual, being a Count and having a French mother and German father.

Not everyone's completely at ease with what they perceive as Beau's divided loyalties and generally they're the same people who don't always refer to the Beauty Chorus affectionately. There was some ill-feeling about how much the women of the ATA were paid and some tricks played on the pilots which sometimes went dangerously beyond practical jokes. War, it seemed, was a man's game and whilst women might have their uses it certainly wasn't flying glamorous planes.

I loved this book. I've got sympathy with those people who feel that the subject of the Second World War has been exhausted, but Kate Lord Brown has taken a little-known part of the war effort and brought it to life. The research has obviously been meticulous but she's wisely avoided the temptation to shoe-horn in every bit of information and told the story from the position of someone who knows a lot more than she needs to tell to flesh out her story. Her characters are the people who stay with you long after you've closed the book. You can imagine them growing, developing as you've seen them mature through the book. This was Kate's debut novel and I really do hope that we'll be hearing a lot more from her.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Unsurprisingly it's difficult to recommend another book about the ATA, but if the subject of war interests you then you might enjoy browsing our Top Ten War Novels. For more about the roll of women in the war you might like to try All The Nice Girls by Joan Bakewell and Goodnight Sweetheart by Charlotte Bingham.

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Buy The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown at


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Tori Tyrrell said:

I was just trying to figure out what kind of novel this is; is this a romance novel with some ATA girls, or is it an ATA novel with some romance?

Sue said:

I'd say that it's about half and half. It certainly isn't a romance with some ATA girls loosely tacked on, but equally it isn't a dry recitation about the ATA. It's a good story which leans perhaps towards the romance side.