Thursday, July 01, 2010

Go Guernsey!

There is certainly no shortage of people who have adored this book, and I'm no different! I absolutely loved it. For the heck of it, I'll throw out a short blurb:

Juliet is a writer, she stumbles upon a story of the German occupation of the Channel Islands in WWII, and she visits, makes new friends, and generally has a big ole life change come upon her thanks to her new letter-writing friends.

I admit, I had a hard time getting into this book for the first few pages. It's written in epistolary form, and the pieces come together slowly in the beginning. I couldn't decide if Sidney was a boy or a girl for a bit, I couldn't remember whose relationships were whose. However, as I read along, the characters began to come to life and take on more distinctive personalities.

My first thought, if I dare to compare this little gem to any other book, is the same atmosphere and warm-fuzziness I got from reading 84 Charing Cross Road. Readers exchanging letters full of humor and good cheer makes for some darn good reading.  There's nothing I would've changed; there's nothing I felt dissatisfied about in regards to this story.

So that makes for a pretty plain review.

My biggest curiosity in reference to this book was about the authors. First, it's odd to see a book by two authors, and I had never heard of either one of them. This prompted some research, and I found a sad and sweet story all the same.

Mary Ann Shaffer started the book. She was driven to do so after she fell in love with the Channel Islands in the 1970s. Years later, after being coaxed into writing a book by her own book club, she turned to her appreciation of Guernsey. Her family and friends loved the book, but her health began to wane, so she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to help her finish the book. Sadly, Shaffer never saw the publication of her masterpiece, but I can't imagine she'd be anything but thrilled with its warm reception.

I find it tragic that Shaffer wasn't able to enjoy the publication of her novel as much as readers have enjoyed consuming it. The story reminds me of one of my favorite singers who I (and the world) discovered posthumously: Eva Cassidy. She spent years singing in bars and clubs and it was only after her death from breast cancer that her smooth, bluesy voice became widely recognized.

If you're like me and you've held off reading this book, waste time no more! Go grab it now. You'll want to give me something shiny for the recommendation.


  1. This is one of those books - like Life of Pi - that everyone else but me seems to have read. ;) Great review - I'm even more interested in finally bringing it down from the shelf now...

  2. Bring it down, Greg! The humor is really first-rate. I should've mentioned that in the review more (oops!). It had me laughing aloud with the dry funny lines. Very good stuff.

  3. It was difficult for me to get into this book as well. I'm generally not a fan of epistolary books and can't even remember why I picked this up. I generally don't read books right after the initial hype. Still, it proved to treat me good in the end.

  4. I haven't read this one yet, though I have seen it all over the place. Rarely have I not seen a good review. Yours is putting me over the edge into temptation.

  5. My book club read this last summer and I never had a chance to read it myself. I missed the meeting and the discussion. It sounds like I missed a really good book. I have it on my shelf at home so I know I will read it eventually!

  6. Yay, Kathy!

    Christina, I can't say that I'm a huge fan of epistolary books either. It seems like I read them every few years or so, and that seems enough. This one did turn out well.

    Nicole, I do my best to tempt!!! I hope you like it when you get around to it. Delightful is the only way I can describe it.

    Kathleen, I hope you can get 'round to it soon because I'd love to know what you think of it!

  7. So glad to hear you weren't disappointed by this one. I thought it was such a lovely book. And, yes, the whole story about the author is so sad isn't it. Eva Cassidy, too. Man, now I want to hear some of her music.

  8. Yay! I'm so glad you liked it. I have to admit I was a bit worried. Sometimes having high expectations can really bring down a reading.

  9. I am so glad you liked this :) I loved it as well..

    I didn't know the story about the authors. That is so sad..

  10. Yet another book I own but haven't read. When will all that free time magically appear?

  11. I have no good excuse as to why I haven't read this one yet. Hopefully soon!

  12. I'm so glad you loved this book too! I wanted to sing its praises to the skies after I read it.

  13. I truly enjoyed this one -you've prompted me to hunt it out for a re-read!

    It was interesting about the niece finishing the book for her aunt. What a lovely memorial it turned out to be!

  14. I loved Guernsey! Like you, though, I struggled with the cast of characters for a few chapters. And I also made the comparison to 84, Charing Cross Road (great book and movie!). Did you know someone is making a film of this book, as well? I sure hope they do a good job with it!

    Thanks for the reminder of Eva Cassidy. I haven't listened to her in several years. Some of her songs move me to tears...

  15. I am sadly probably the only person alive who hasn't read this. Okay, that's a huge exaggeration but I am beginning to feel like it becomes truer every day. It's calling to me though. And I definitely want to jump on the Guernsey train soon. This summer has got to be the summer. I need to get reading!

  16. I'm glad to hear you ended up liking it. I loved it!

    I hope it's okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.

  17. Iliana, it's sort of a warm fuzzy book. Obviously terribly sad in spots, but I found the whole thing very comforting overall.

    Amen to that, Trisha! But not with this book.

    Iris, isn't that sad? But somehow it adds that much more mystique to this already amazing read. Such a history, I suppose.

    Lisa, I keep waiting but my magical free time hasn't arrived yet either.

    LOL, Lola! Looking forward to your thoughts when you get around to it.

    Meghan, same here!

    Becca, a lovely memorial indeed. I'm glad I could prompt a re-read. I suspect I'll be re-reading it at some point, too.

    Les, it could be a GREAT movie, or it could be a total let down. If they do it right, it might even win some Oscars!

    Jennifer, do it, do it, do it! Sorry, I'm a born enabler. :) I hope you love it like I did.

    Anna, thanks! And I would be delighted to be linked on War Through the Generations.

  18. I did love this book ... and it was easy to follow who the various writers were once you got into the book. It is sad that Shaffer never got to see her book succeed.


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