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Book Review: 'The Evening Chorus'


If you like dark and lyrical love stories, Alan Cheuse has a suggestion for you. It's a novel by the Canadian writer Helen Humphreys, set during World War II and its aftermath. It's called "The Evening Chorus."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: James is an English airman who gets shot down over Nazi-occupied Europe. He settles in for a number of years in a prison camp where, encouraged by the commandant, he becomes a birdwatcher. Back in England, his young wife Rose is living in a small cottage on the edge of a forest called Ashdown. Restless in her freedom, she takes up with another airman on leave, who later crashes in that same patch of woods.

The best of this hypnotic little novel comes to us at the border between speech and gesture, in the play of language and action, in the way that, at one point, Rose, the unfaithful wife, takes a macabre souvenir from the crash site of her late lover, a tooth that she sometimes slips into her mouth, feeling the cold clink of it against her own teeth, the small weight of it, like a word just before it's said. Because of moments like this and many others, "The Evening Chorus" deserves a special place on your reading list this winter.

MCEVERS: The book is "The Evening Chorus" by Helen Humphreys. Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.
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