by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Source: Purchased (reading for bookclub)
I really, really, really enjoyed this book (I need to buy a thesaurus don’t I?). It was simply lovely. It is a historical fiction but books and discussing books bring the characters together. Because it is told through a series of letters between the characters it reminds me a lot of 84 Charing Cross Road, which I also loved, but there is more history and meat to this story. WWII recently ended, Guernsey (part of the Channel Islands across from London) had been occupied during the war, and the people on the island created a literary society to have a reason to assemble and avoid trouble from the Germans. Juliet, the main character and an author, receives a letter from one of the islanders asking for a bookshop recommendation, her name and address was in one of the books he now owns. This opens up a friendship between the society members and Juliet, who asks they write to her to tell her their experiences during the war. You really get to know the characters, and they are strong, determined, amazing and funny and feel very real. There is not a huge amount of action but instead is a quiet, reflective type of book.
Besides being interesting history and character driven, they share a love of books that I can so understand!
“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” (pg 11)
Ultimately, Juliet decides to write a book about Guernsey and the Society and goes there to interview everyone properly. It is so interesting to see how much you can learn about people from their correspondence. It is happy, sad, romantic, funny and heart-warming. It had me laughing and crying, for both happy and sad and horrifying reasons. It discusses WWII and the atrocities the people faced and lived to tell about or not. It does take a little work to get to know all of the characters because there are a lot of them. I spoke to one of my friends who compiled a list of characters and who they are to keep her straight as she reads. I just plowed on through and figured out who characters were as I went. I was a little confused a time or two, but it didn’t really matter. Things are revealed as you dig through the letters, so you have to have patience and an open mind going in. But it really is worth it if you like historical fiction, ever read and enjoyed Griffin and Sabine (though this is without magic) or 84 Charing Cross Road. Read it!! For me, it is a 5 star book and a keeper.