Monthly Archives: August 2008

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

I read this book. I loved it. I cried at the end. Helene Hanff certainly infuses her letters with her personality. She has certainly attained the ‘true art of letter writing’ as described by Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra.

I have now attained the true art of letter-writting, which we are always told is to express on paper exactly what one would say to the same person by word of mouth.

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Book in Progress – ’84 Charing Cross Road’ Helene Hanff

I’m reading this at the moment and enjoying it. All of the reviews of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society referred to this book, so I had to read it.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer

I bought this book based on a recommendation from here.

It is set in London and Guernsey just after World War Two and it is written in letters!

Here is the stuff on the back …

“…I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’d never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He’d come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the-moment way: as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupations has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

I couldn’t resist a book with this title. It is lovely – joyous – despite some grim war anecdotes. The characters are faultlessly portrayed – who could forget Isola with her witch like herbal potions (Juliet advises Sophie to not even let the dog drink it) and Juliet (our heroine) witty, but very kind hearted. I wanted to go to Guernsey and join their society.

This novel is about the joys of reading and how it can bring people together and provide them with an escape in a difficult time. It is light and humourous – a joy to read.

Here are some links to other reviews

Next up The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Sylvie James.

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The Music of the Primes – Marcus du Sautoy

 I went to The Well for a book signing by Geraldine Brooks and while waiting I picked up a copy of the above – she was so late I had to leave before she arrived. I put in my pile of ‘to be read later’ books. This month, however, for book club we decided to read a book of our own choice – rather than us all reading the same book. I decided to give this one a go – I was hoping for something similar to Singh’s Fermat’s Last Theorem . I was to be disappointed.

I don’t think the mix between mathematics and explanations for non-mathematicians is quite right. I was hoping I could convince my non-mathematical friends to read it, but I think it is too complicated for non-mathematicians. To be fair a lot of maths is covered in 314 pages.

Having said that, the parts about the Mathematicians’ lives are fascinating – their inspiration, cultural heritage and current world events are described beautifully. He can describe their personalities in a couple of succinct sentences. And the section on prime numbers and financial security is really well done – I think you could read it just for that bit.

So my final thought would be to read it if you are at all interested in Mathematics, but not to bother otherwise.


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