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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 Sea’ John Banville

I’m not really sure why I bought this book. I was in the book store buying my 2 year old a Maisy book (as you do) and saw that it was discounted plus it had a big sticker stating that it won the 2005 Man Booker prize. As I’m always looking for something ‘literary’ and intelligent for book club, I decided to grab a copy. Yes I do buy things based on the cover!

Max Morden’s (our hero) wife dies before the action starts. He returns to the village where he spent some childhood summers to grieve, but also to dwell on the enigmatic Graces whom he met one summer. The mute Myles and the precocious Chloe.

The story develops in a series of flash backs to that summer, memories of his wife and present events. We learn that Max is a drinker, troubled by something that occurred in that distant summer even that he changed his name to Max.

I find when I read a book something in my mind shifts – I understand something better, or I feel that I’ve had a conversation with a kindred spirit. Not this book. I feel nothing. I didn’t hate it or love it. I found it hard going and forced myself to finish it. The use of obscure words (i.e. cinereal, caduceus) fascinated and then frustrated me.  I avoided reading it because I couldn’t be bothered looking up another word in my dictionary.

It’s not a book I will reread and I will think carefully before recommending it to anyone.

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