The Bellbird River Country Choir by Sophie Green

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

For a novel of this type, the beginning of the book has to be chapters which for a while seem totally unconnected. At first what begins to connect the characters and their stories, is the location, a small country town in New South Wales not far from Tamworth. But even so, just because these people now live in the same town it doesn’t mean that they will become friends. Their interests appear to be so different.

There is a high school maths teacher who moves to the country in the hope of spending more time with her young daughter. Another person new to the area is a woman who has spent time in prison causing her to lose her husband, who has since remarried, and her two children. Locals who feature are a woman with a grown-up family, whose husband has just left her for another; her cousin, a well-known globe-trotting opera singer who has returned home after an operation which has reduced her singing range; and the local baker whose brother’s illness has changed him so much that his parents cannot cope.

Each of these characters and those close to them highlight different personalities and problems which affect the way they interact with others, as one of them says, ‘she gets scraps of love from other people because that’s all she gives’ (367).

This author’s writing focuses on common personal relationship problems, and she demonstrates through her stories how individuals can outgrow those characteristics that are restricting them from enjoying a full and happy life. She suggests that individuals cover themselves with ‘what they imagine is protection only to find themselves trapped inside it’. The solution is ‘to remember who you are at your core’ (406).

The title of this novel has the choir at its centre, and it is the relationships developed by being a member of the local choir that stimulates the growth of each of the main characters. Through their love of music, they have a common interest which allows them to make a connection with other people. It is in this sphere that they are able to open up and expose what has been holding them back in the past.

Bullying at an early age can have a devastating and long-lasting consequence. One of our lead characters has hidden her beautiful voice because she believed that it was showing off and made her a target in her earlier life. When she experienced acceptance within the choir, she was at last able to reconnect with her joy of singing. The opera singer whose voice is now restricted believes that she no longer has anything to offer but her association with this choir allows her to realise she has other gifts she can share. Most of the members are there to make friends and to feel part of the community regardless of their singing ability. The choir has a unifying and freeing effect on all its members.

There are many life lessons imbedded in this delightful story which describes small town living so accurately. The author’s wisdom regarding family breakdowns whether through illness, intergenerational issues, or infidelity is evident as is her understanding of diverse personalities and how they are influenced by past experiences. All her characters learn that by opening up to others and giving rather than just receiving all the time, that life can be so much more enriched.

Sophie Green has written several fiction and non-fiction books, some under other names. She has a blog, Sunburnt Country Music, where she contributes her other interest. Her books have been well-received by readers, including The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club and The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle which were Top Ten bestsellers.

I have read both of these previous novels and enjoyed each of them. Though very similar in focus, they each have something new to impart to the reader and all end on a similar happy note of individuals discovering their worth.

The Bellbird River Country Choir


By Sophie Green

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 978-0-7336-4771-0

$32.99; 432pp


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