A small English town suffering from everyday problems and decay rediscovers itself through the reinvigoration of its community choir.
Bridgeford, “a tiny, inconsequential dot on the landscape of Britain,” is both the setting for and subject of Hornby’s follow-up to her popular debut (The Hive, 2013), and once again the author’s focus is on relationships within a small community. The perils facing this un-special U.K. town are low-key yet significant: plans for a new superstore are threatening the independent shops on the main street; the local choir, already dwindling, has just lost its leader, injured in a car crash; and the general sense of shared involvement in public spaces and projects is ebbing away. The remedy lies in the townspeople themselves, but they don’t know it yet. It will take the forward momentum of three figures in particular to bring about change for the many. Mysterious single mother Tracey will need to emerge from secrecy and share her talents; divorcing, jobless Bennett will have to cast aside his anonymity; and stalwart Annie must focus on her own needs instead of everyone else’s. Lightly comic and as mundane as sliced bread, Hornby’s storytelling conjures up a rose-tinted picture of a community in which problems are simply solved, bad characters easily vanquished, and new relationships fall neatly into place. Reminiscent of British films like Made in Dagenham, the novel offers a heartwarming fantasy of social cohesion and improved future prospects for almost all, as the generations come together for a wide-screen sing-a-long version of the Carpenters’ “Sing a Song” and a last, irresistible dollop of feel-good factor.
A pleasant if long-winded fable, as simple, all-embracing, and insistently cheerful as Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” which is also part of the Bridgeford Community Choir’s repertoire.