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The Angry Women’s Choir by Meg Bignell

Title: The Angry Women’s Choir

A peach cover with red, pink, and gold shapes behind black text that reads The Angry Women's Choir by Meg Bignell.

Author: Meg Bignell

Genre: Contemporary

Publisher: Penguin/Michael Joseph

Published: 5th July 2022

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: By the acclaimed author of Welcome To Nowhere River comes a heart-warming and uplifting story about a remarkable group of women who discover they are all capable of incredible things – if they’re strong enough, and angry enough, to take up the cause.

Once in a while, everyone needs to be heard.

Freycinet Barnes has built herself the perfect existence. With beautiful children, a successful husband and a well-ordered schedule, it’s a life so full she simply doesn’t fit.

When she steps outside her calendar and is accidentally thrown into the generous bosom of the West Moonah Women’s Choir, she finds music, laughter, friendship, and a humming wellspring of rage. With the ready acceptance of the colourful choristers, Frey learns that voices can move mountains, fury can be kind and life can do with a bit of ruining.

Together, Frey and the choir sing their anger, they breathe it in and stitch it up, belt it out and spin it into a fierce, driving beat that will kick the system square in the balls, and possibly demolish them all.

~*~

Meet the West Moonah Women’s Choir: Bizzy Nancarrow, Kyrie Kafbel, Rosanna Kafbel, Avni Sasani, Irene Hawke, Dr Sally Cartwright, Quin, Mary, Eleanor and newcomer, Freycinet Barnes. Freycinet meets them after Rosanna and Kyrie knock her down, and after she discovers something about her husband, Gil that she wishes she had never found out. As she joins the choir, Freycinet finds a voice – and a place for women who need to be heard. The choir is their place to be heard, to sing, to speak about what upsets them – they call them Furies. And as the choir grapples with Rosanna’s terminal cancer diagnosis, the book is littered with Rosanna’s list of life advice called La Lista. The choir is filled with friendship, and soon, they’re driven to speak out more about the patriarchy and how it affects them.

As Frey learns that the smallest voices and acts can lead to something huge, it’s her home life that starts to suffer as she takes on the systems – but will the choir demolish themselves amidst their activism, or will they find that they can be stronger together and bring their frustrations to life and unite a community, bringing women from all walks of life together, as well as a few allies to take on the systems that have oppressed many, and still do so in subtle and unnerving ways, or will everything come crashing down?

This novel arrived as a surprise – and I have to say, it was really refreshing to read a female-driven novel with a fantastically diverse cast, where each woman has an interesting background – especially Frey, who has worked in intelligence, and has the biggest secret of them all – and secrets become important throughout the novel. Soon, we are drawn into a world of secrets, spying, music, and a group of women keen to prove that someone isn’t quite who he says he is, and that what he claims to stand for is a cover-up for something else. And, they’re determined to save their choir rehearsal place – but in the end, it is Frey’s family that starts to fracture because she can’t see what’s happening with Tom, Grace, and Lily while she’s embroiled in the world of the choir. What I liked about this novel was that each character was her own person, had her own history, her own way of speaking and seeing the world, and that they combined these skills and personalities to change the world they live in.  It had a few bittersweet moments, which hint at the realities of life as it unfolds with the inevitabilities of life and death that we cannot control.

It captured the beauty and frustrations of many lives, and gave deep insight into the lengths people like Frey will go to prove something and know what is going on in their lives. It’s distinctively and explicitly feminist – yet shows that every movement has its fractures and we need to work together to ensure a movement will have the impact that we want it to have. I really liked that it centred women’s experiences beyond falling in love. It was the mess of life – the messy lives of these women that made the novel exceptional. The characters were also allowed to be flawed and be angry with themselves and each other – I felt this added to the authenticity of what these women were feeling too. And they empowered so many people – I think this was done effectively as well, and it showed that sometimes the smallest acts are the most powerful.

This was an interesting read, and one that will have a place amongst women’s stories – and it is one that gives a different and diverse range of stories some attention, which worked very well.

Another great novel!

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