Thursday, 14 January 2010
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Borrows
Home is a cold island.
Recently I found myself at the beginning of a long flight back to the UK without any more reading material. This could be a real problem for me, and honestly it almost never happens, but I thought my 14 month old- from now on known as BabyReader-would take up more of my time than she did thanks to some very gracious God-parents. I was faced with no book and 14 hours of travel ahead of me, so I found this little one in the airport.
It’s a book about reading books, which I seem to like, don’t ask me why. It’s also vaguely historical about the results of Guernsey and Britain in general after the Second World War, written in letter form (had I known that I would have never picked it up, honestly), and almost everyone in it is at least 40. Think ‘Bridges of Madison County’, set on a dairy island after the war. Everyone in the book seemed to be recuperating from a very long sickness, which is what occupation must have felt like.
The driving plot is basic. A woman who has written one popular book is looking for her second when she begins corresponding with a fellow on Guernsey about Charles Lamb. She decides to write about the literary society on the island that they accidentally created during to war to hide the actual dinner party they were having from a hidden pig. It continues with stories of people who had never really read before finding solace in books. Of course there’s a little conflict and some romance put in for good measure and a heavy dollop of whistfullness but it never gets overly sentimental.
The most remarkable bits don’t really fall into the plot, they are little stories about life both the great and small. The bit about Christian, a German soldier who was kind and generous is delicate and believable. Funny stories about a woman who reviews her own cookbook or a man who only reads Seneca over and over are interspersed with stories meant to purge oneself from the horrors of war and lovely moments like discovering Austin for the first time or learning phrenology. There are even a few things that don’t have to do with books, for the very picky!
It was light, but not flimsy and a very nice way to come home.