Thursday, August 6, 2009

Review – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Contains MANY spoilers ...

Today’s blog is about the best hobby ever … reading. This is both because it is a review of a book, as well as, about a book that explores the joy of reading and the torture every writer must go through in order to produce a truly satisfying read.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – great story about why there are two authors, by the way) is a truly innovative way of writing a book. This thrilling adventure is revealed via a series of letters that centre around our protagonist, Juliet Ashton. Can you imagine this? What a great idea! I am not such a prolific reader that I would know if this is the first time a story was told letters only, but it is the first time I’ve experienced it, and I love it.

Juliet is a writer with some commercial success and is now attempting another work. Her publisher is Sidney Stark, her best friend’s older brother. Letters are being written to and from Sidney, Juliet, and her best friend, Sophie. There is a bit of a tiff when Juliet is romantically courted by a rival publisher, who is charmingly aggressive, but ultimately, quite soulless. But this is a mere distraction. The great part of the story comes from the Guernsey Island residents who decide to tell Juliet about their time during the German Occupation of their gorgeous island. The one person who does not write to Juliet is one of the Islanders, Elizabeth, who has gone missing after having been sent to a concentration camp. However, Elizabeth has touched all their lives because of one thing only: kindness.

Elizabeth struck me as being a bit too perfect: the mischievous rascal who has a heart of gold and thus must be forgiven for rushing about with messy clothes or whatever. Forgive me, but I like people who behave appropriately! And there is that sense that prim and proper people are generally heartless and only interested in having things just so.

This one thing aside, Elizabeth is truly how we wish we were – defending the weak, taking care of friends who need us, and living exactly how we damn well please.

Juliet is the perfect protagonist because she is so completely human. I can totally relate to everything she says and does … The hesitation about whether to choose a particular guy… Being self aware enough that if she feels a certain way, what does it say about her? I love her irreverence and the lack of pretension. Through her letters, we almost feel as though we are reading her diary. It is raw, compelling and truly authentic.

The most important part of my experience is my new appreciation and desperate need to go to Guernsey. It is so beautiful, but pretty expensive for a paper-pusher who needs some pricey surgery to get rid of her wisdom teeth, stat. However, when I finally get there, it will be worth it.

This book taught me a lot about a whole other culture, which I had no idea existed. How exciting to see the cherry pickings of the French and English civilizations living in a wonderfully rural and unpretentious manner.

Can you tell? I recommend this book! It may start off slow and a bit dull, but stick with it and you may find yourself up at 2 am, reading in the bathroom because your sleeping husband can’t abide the light. Of course, the downside of this is that you’ll be late for work the next day, forget all about pushing papers and hold your unfortunate colleagues ransom with all things Guernsey.

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