After the death of Briony's stepmother, Briony develops a hatred toward herself, a strong need to protect her mentally disabled sister Rose from the rest of the world (whom she is responsible for disabling) and, most importantly, a fear of the secret she keeps hidden from the world — and the need to keep it buried forever. You see, Briony is a witch, and in her Victorian-era village, witches are the culprits of all wrongs, and should be hanged. It doesn't help that Briony also has to battle the advances of Cecil, a local town boy who's convinced that he is going to marry her. When a boy named Eldric appears, Briony finds herself drawn to him, and learns that she's not the only one who keeps secrets.
I think the hardest thing for me to connect with in Chime was the character of Briony herself. As the main character and narrator, it's nearly essential for readers to be able to connect to her, sympathize with her and, well, hopefully like her. Since Briony spends virtually the entire novel hating herself, thinking she was worthy of death, beating herself up over being who she was, etc., it was just really hard for me to like her. The angst and self-loathing was so much that I found myself naturally rejecting her for being so negative. But as the story went on and Briony's world unfolded, I started to grow into her. Even though, admittedly, I never found myself actually liking the character, I at least came to an understanding of why she was so depressing and, eventually, got to a point where I at least cared about what would happen to her — but I still never developed a particular liking for her.
Honestly, though, this almost didn't matter when it came to flipping pages. Author Franny Billingsley is an absolutely amazing writer who can weave fascinating worlds in lyrical prose. Billingsley has an amazing ability to convey character's emotions while building a haunting and unforgettable tone that hovers throughout the entire novel and gives it a life all its own. With every word, I felt like I had a clear view of Briony's personality, her world and the characters that inhabit it. Did I also mention that Billingsley is a master of writing dialog? Every time I read a character's dialog I had no trouble hearing distinct voices in my hear and getting a perfect sense of the setting and the period.