Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I have to say that this was my second time reading this book and I found it just as delightful as the first time. I hope some of you other readers liked it also.

I remember being a little apprehensive at the outset the first time when I saw that the book was written in the format of letters. I wasn't sure how that would go. Then I thought, "well, I've read books written entirely in the form of emails and text messages, so I can probably handle letters." Once I really got started, the letter format turned out to be great. The voices of the different characters were very evident and I really started to feel like I knew these people. There is something so personal about writing letters. Except for missionaries writing home (and who knows if they write letters anymore now that they can email?) and the occasional thank-you note, letter-writing seems to be a lost art.

I think the characters are so wonderful and vivid. I love Juliet's spirit and how she seems to be so hopelessly prone to trouble: throwing books and teapots at people, somehow breaking Sidney's leg, breaking china... Isola, Amelia, Eben, and even Elizabeth, who we never met but is such a central figure in the book - they're all great. I'm adding Dawsey Adams to my list of literary crushes. Quiet, hardworking, loves to read, saves mementos, unfailingly all adds up. I think his reluctance to tell Juliet of his feelings has less to do with his own insecurities and lack of experience with relationships and more to do with a misunderstanding of her feelings. I think he sees Juliet with Mark or Sidney and doesn't want to get in the way of her happiness, thinking that she may be in love with either of those men. Very considerate of him to not want to burden her more or possibly keep her from her desires, even though he is miserable.

I was also impressed with the portrayal of Christian's character. It's so easy to paint a picture of any World War II-era German in a negative light. Hitler was a monster. He made his followers do terrible things. That does not necessarily mean that everyone who was a soldier then was a bad person or even that they believed in Hitler's cause. Without having proof (I bet it's out there somewhere though), I can only speculate that there were men and women who were simply following orders, doing so in fear of repercussions for disobedience. (Actually, there is a man in our church ward here who was a member of Hitler's youth program, simply because he had no other choice. Very interesting story. But I digress.) Much like the young women mentioned in the novel who took up with soldiers as a means to an end, a way to provide for their families when times were so desperate. Anyway, I liked how some of the Islanders developed relationships, even friendships, with some of the occupying soldiers. Christian in particular is portrayed as being kind, thoughtful, and willing to help the ordinary Guernsey citizens when he was able to do so. The cemetery groundskeeper, when talking to Juliet, shared accounts not only of Christian being kind and helpful but also of other soldiers dropping potatoes, oranges, and coal off the backs of trucks and even procuring medicine for the sick. It's nice to read accounts that the German soldiers weren't just machines, but human beings with feelings and families and the like.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. Can't wait to hear what you thought of it.


Melvin and Carly said...

Hey all. You won't hurt my feelings if you didn't like the book. Hasn't anyone else finished it yet?

Chad's Travels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

I'm not done yet.... almost :)

Chad's Travels said...

Excellent point about Christian and the other friendly soldiers on Guernsey! I forgot about that when I posted my review, that account was another aspect I enjoyed.

I believe you're right about soldiers being human regardless on which side they fight. My brother in law's grandfather fought for the Germans in WWII. In my sister's home, there is a shadow box memorializing his service and displaying his medals like the iron cross.

It is a strange feeling when I look at that and think about what he may have done to earn those medals while fighting against my grandfather. He was just as much a hero to his family as my grandfather is to mine.

Politics and war are complex issues far beyond the black/white, good/evil elements we try to reduce them to. Stories like the Christmas Eve truce and goodwill extended between entrenched German and Allied troops in WWI, the movie Saints and Soldiers, and many other examples further illustrate this point.