Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Nook - The Guernsey Literary Society

I can't help but compare this week's Book Nook selection to a cup of chamomile tea.  It's nice & comforting, but rather mild.  You might have a cup at your Great Aunt's 75th birthday brunch, but it wouldn't be your beverage of choice if you were at a club in NYC, say.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a nice book.  I wouldn't call it a great book, but it's a nice story (if a bit predictable).  It's the kind of book that you can easily set down for several days & then pick back up & get back in it.  Not a page turner, but is certainly the chamomile of books.

Juliet Ashton is a writer living in London in 1946.  She is looking for her next writing project & starts a correspondence with Dawsey Adams, a resident of the island of Guernsey.  Eventually, Juliet starts regular correspondence with several other islanders, and through those letters we learn of the Nazi invasion of Guernsey & what life was like for those living there at the time.  Juliet also writes regularly with her friend Sophie, Sidney (Sophie's brother & Juliet's publisher), & Marc (Juliet's would-be suitor).  The novel is told in epistolary style, meaning it is comprised entirely of letters to & from characters.  Word of the day!

I really enjoyed the style of unfolding the story through letters.  Many of the letters back & forth seemed very natural & real.  There were only a couple of times it seemed that the authors pushed the envelope - I couldn't resist the pun -  (Letter: would you like to have dinner with me tonight?  Letter back: yes, that would be great.  What time?  Letter back:  how about 7:00.  Where would you like to go.......).  You get the point.

Now, about the characters.  I think the authors are trying to create a handful of quirky characters, and they succeed in a few spots (I thought Ysolda's head bump reading was funny), but overall I thought the characters were a little mild. Yes, like chamomile tea!  And a few of them changed course a bit too much - Marc at first seemed like a nice guy, not the demanding jerk he ended up being.  I would have liked seeing the Juliet/Dawsey story line played out a little differently.  And there was much discussion about Elizabeth, but I only have a blurry vision of her as a character - she seemed a bit flat for being so important to the story line.

I know I sound like I'm being a bit hard on the book.  I really did enjoy it, but I feel it's important to say again, that it's just sort of....mild.  Mild isn't always a bad thing, but sometimes you just have to be in the right mood for it to appreciate it.  I would like to add that I read the book on CD (as usual!) and really enjoyed the different characters getting a different actor playing them.  I think the actress reading Juliet's part is the same person who read The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel (Thursday Next Novels (Penguin Books)), which is a really great book incidentally.  In fact, there's a line in this book that says something about "Thursday next" & the actress even accentuates it rather noticeably.  Anyone know if it's the same person reading both books on the book-on-CD versions?

If you are looking for a real page turner, skip this one.  If you are looking for a high-adrenaline, complex storyline, stay-up until 3:00am to read just a little more, I'd look elsewhere.  But if you're looking for a nice story that is quietly entertaining, then this book just might be your cup of tea.  

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