Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows -
For the first time in a very long time, I stayed up late last night to finish this book. I didn't mean to; I went to bed fairly late, and thought I would read just a few pages and I expected to fall right asleep. An hour later, I realized I only had 20 pages left, so I might as well finish the book. 2:30 in the morning I closed the covers with a big sigh, laughing while I wiped away tears.

How is it the very best books make us fall in love with characters? How can we feel we know Elizabeth just through other people's stories about her? But I do. And Dawsey; I liked him from the very start, and even though he doesn't say much, it's not in his nature, everything he says was good and true and how can you not fall in love with a character like that? And this is all done through letters. How powerful our perceptions are of other people. How powerful one story is, and when you put a collection together - all these characters talking about the occupation of Guernsey in the Second World War, the different experiences create a more complete picture of what life was like in general under the Germans. This is quite a clever book. I really enjoyed it, and the very best part is of course, that the main character Juliet Ashton is a writer. It is one of her childhood books ending up on the Island that leads to the story beginning. It wouldn't happen today, of course, no one would look up a previous owner of a book in today's world. But back then in 1946, when you could come across the book of a relatively famous writer (Juliet is an English newspaper humorous writer, so still approachable) you would reach out and say, "I found your book today, and I love this author too." Isn't falling in love over a book or an author, what we all secretly dream of in our little bookish hearts? Even though my husband doesn't read very much, he does read the occasional sports book - I've made sure to buy many over the years!! - and he can live with all my books.

Writing about books here gives me a place and a space to write about reading. I would be writing about what I read even if it were in my journal, if no internet existed! It's what I used to do, back in the day when we didn't have the computer! (Yes, everyone under the age of 20, once upon a time there was NO COMPUTER, NO INTERNET.) So I think if Guernesy Literary were set in today's world, it would have to be set over the internet - someone from the book blog community finally meeting and......

If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. It is delightful, funny, romantic, and courageous. It is heartbreaking too, and filled with love. I've already given a copy to my mother for her birthday (today is her birthday, Happy Birthday Mom!). If you are stuck with what book to give someone who enjoys reading and wants something that is fairly light but not fluffy, this is the book for you. It really is good. I think it will become one that I read every other year or so. After all, it isn't every book that can get me to stay up late into the night, reading! ***I don't stay up late reading as much as I used to because I never get enough sleep as it is, not because I wouldn't rather be reading 24 hours a day.....

****I also confess to deeply desiring to see the sea again, and my husband admitted that he would like to find an island and spend the holidays with just us on it, so if you are feeling the world pressing in, this book is also a good get-away in lieu of being on a relatively sparsely populated island for Christmas. I also really want to go to Guernsey now!

Advent Virtual Tour Update

I've missed two days here, so please bear with me as I catch up. I do get to every tour post to read, but I don't always get time to blog here!

Dec 3
Ana at Things Mean Alot has a wonderful post on Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales. I love the cover illustration she has on her post. This is one of those books that everyone including me keeps meaning to read, but hasn't yet. Ana gives some her thoughtful insights on what makes this work a treasure, and asks you for some of your memories of Christmas. No matter how much or in what ways we celebrate this season, everyone has something to say about it! So please give her your thoughts or memories, too.

Chris at Book-a-rama has a fabulous post on having homemade gifts for Christmas. There are so many ideas here!!! Even I, a mostly unhandy crafter at best (and other than small quilting projects and one needlepoint design on a bag, that's IT folks, I suck at making things!!), am tempted to see if I can try my hand at one or two of these ideas. I'm going to bookmark this post so that next year I can start much earlier. After all, I think even I could make a fabric weight for a book so my cookbooks stop closing on me!!! Chris also has some thoughts on what makes Christmas special for her, thoughts that I agree with. Do you?

Karen at SassyMonkey Reads has a post on Christmases past and present, and how much difference there is between having no one to celebrate Christmas with, and someone to spend Christmas with. I could relate to some of her past memories, since I have spent Christmases alone when I was first on my own, as well as very often filled with family and friends. I much prefer having both family time and time alone - for reading, of course! - over the holidays. What do you like? Can you relate to Karen's post? It's moving, in an unexpected way.

Lastly for Dec 3, Mrs Q at Book Addict posted about her Christmas plans. She is rejuvenated by mass at Christmas, and provides a few lovely Christmas quotes. I enjoyed this post and seeing the picture of one of the churches where she will be attending mass. I see there is no snow there!

There seems to be a theme this year so far in the blogs, of enjoying the pleasures of each other's company and not rushing to spend in a frenzy. This is something I have slowly come to appreciate over the years. I love to give, as I've said before, and all of our posts are reminding me that Christmas is a time of receiving too, and not just gifts, but the pleasure of spending time together.

Dec 4

Maree at Just Add Books couldn't think of what to write about, so she wrote a lovely small piece on a small and quiet Christmas. She reminds me that you don't have to have a long post for this tour. Just say hi, post a picture, put up Christmas music, whatever moves you. This is one reason why I like this tour, because I get to see how Christmas (or whatever you do celebrate) is for you, this year. It is a way for us to reach out and create a space for all of us to create some kind of virtual Christmas together! I like it - I can't give you the cookies I bake, or sing carols with you, or watch the snow fall, but I can post about it and we can share each other's experiences. And like reading, it does become part of us.

Aarti at Booklust hasposted beautiful pictures of lanterns in the sky that they saw on their family trip to Thailand last year. They don't celebrate any holidays at this time of year, so her family goes travelling. I think this is a very cool way of enjoying this time of year! They aren't her photos, but they capture the beauty and magic of that moment she experienced. What a lovely tradition the Thais have of introducing the new year!

Lisa at Books, Lists, Life, wrote about how she starts getting ready for Christmas after their Thanksgiving, and how she is looking for new traditions to introduce to her young and growing family. She also wants to know if you prefer homemade gifts to store bought gifts. And to be honest!! I will: I prefer both! Something someone has made I cherish because they cared about me enough to make it, and something someone has bought with me in mind I also appreciate because of the effort they made. I like gifts! The giving and receiving. I get as much pleasure from buying as I do to receiving. Mostly, I love sharing our thoughts, and company. Here on my blog, and every day in my life. And I think most of my Christmas memories are made from when people shared of themselves in time spent together. Although Aarti did make the hilarious point that quite often we can't spend too long in our loved extended family's presence!!!

Robin at A Fondness for Reading has posted a lovely post featuring some art from her schoolchildren and a poem they have memorized. The art - mandalas - is beautiful. It's the theme of light in this time of darkness. Isn't that a lovely way of recognizing how important the sun, and light, is to our world? I love the mandalas the class has made. The poem is for all of us, no matter where we come from or what we celebrate. Thank you, Robin!

I still have to go to today's virtual tour; that will be later tonight, as we have company coming this afternoon, and fun auction to go to for my friend at work who belongs to a choral choir. It's their annual fundraiser and she hooked me when she mentioned the used-book table! Plus she's my friend! So I will post later tonight about today's tour - and whatever books I pick up!

Have a happy Saturday preparing for the holidays (because we all are by now!) in whatever way you choose to celebrate. And if we have to stay up late to get some reading in, well, I consider that a present we give to ourselves!


Sue F. said...

We just spent Thanksgiving in Mexico with our kids and was a great getaway! While there one of my daughters told me about this book and I am dying to read it now after reading your review! Great job!

Anonymous said...

This book has been on my wish list for awhile, now I am really keen to read it. So many books and no where near enough time. Modern varients on the epistolary novel are inteesting, I read a Reginald Hill novel based on Jane Austen's last work where he experimented with the epistolary form in e-mail, I think a lot of people found it hard to read because he used current conventions in regards to abbreviation and punctuation, I liked it though.
Must go and check out the links you posted, could do with some Christmas cheer. Happy reading.

Robin said...

Oh I loved this book, too. I can completely understand staying up 'til the wee hours of the night to finish it. And thanks for the kinds words about my Virtual Advent post!

Kailana said...

This was such a great book! I really need to read it again. :)

Staci said...

I absolutely adored this book too...I love falling in love with characters in the books!!! Fantastic post!

Lisa said...

This is one of those books I've had forever and haven't gotten around to reading yet.

I love your advent wrap up summaries, it really makes me want to visit the others. I mean, I already did, but if I hadn't I'd want to.

Daphne said...

I loved this book too. I'm not usually a fan of books told through letters, but it really worked in this example and was so charming!

Susan said...

Sue F: not only am I happy for you that you got away with your family for wonderful getaway, but that coincidentally I post about a book that your daughter liked! lol I hope you are able to get a copy soon :-D

Book pusher: Yes, I agree, so many books, so little time!!! I haven't heard of the Reginal Hill book, do you know the title? and I hope the links cheered you up!

Robin: it was by accident that I stayed up so late! I loved the feeling though. It's been a long time since I did that. I'm glad you enjoyed the book also :-D

Kailana: so you've read it also, it's wonderful you liked it too! I'm pleased so many people did like it. It is one that can be read again and again, I think. I'm already looking forward to doing just that in the next year or two with this one! Very rare for me.

Staci: thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it also. It is one where we can fall in love with the characters, and I am delighted so many of you understand what I mean and agree with me!

Lisa: I didn't mean to do summaries of the advent tour, I just wanted to let people know what they would find, and now I've started adding my own comment.....its' all fun! So I'm very happy to know that you're enjoying it too, as well as the original posts, which is the point of the tour!! If it gets a few more people enjoying the tour, then that's what I'm hoping for.
I hope you get time to read the book in the coming year! But I find you have to be in the mood for a book, and sometimes I have them for years before I read them.

daphne: charming is a good word for this book! I'm so glad you enjoyed it so much too.

Memory said...

I loved this book too! You've reminded me that I'd like to give it to someone for Christmas; I wonder if it would get here in time if I ordered it today?

Court said...

Ack!! THis was such a brilliant book - so happy you enjoyed it!

Clover said...

I adored Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society! I stayed up too late reading it as well. I laughed, I cried, I was sad when it was finished..

Susan said...

Memory: I'm glad I could help you remember to give it to someone else too!! It really is a book that almost anyone will enjoy, I think, for all kinds of reasons.

Court: you did too! I just wonder at me taking so long to read it!!

Clover: And you! Maybe I am the last book blogger to read this! lol It's fun to stay up late reading, something I don't have do so much now. I miss it, and this book reminded me of how much fun it is to do. I had to know how it ended!

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