Augusta Locke may be the strongest, most compelling female character I've yet discovered in literature. The reader meets her as a plain girl, born toAugusta Locke may be the strongest, most compelling female character I've yet discovered in literature. The reader meets her as a plain girl, born to beautiful parents, who feels the sting of her difference. She's an outsider in her own family. What's more, she's not traditionally feminine, but a bold creature filled with the wanderlust of her father, qualities that make her an oddity for her time. This book follows Gussie's life as she frees herself of the constraints of those who won't accept her on her own terms, and seeks out champions to support her quest to make her way in the harsh outdoor life of the West.
She does what people expect only men to do. As a teen, she initiates a one-night stand with an attractive young man. Yet it's a moment filled with tenderness. The boy goes off to war, and Gussie decides not to go home to her graceful mother and her new stepfather - who expects decorum. Instead, she puts on the boy's clothes, leaves him her dress, and finds herself mistaken for a young man. She joins a road crew, the first of several male-dominated professions in which she holds her own. Gussie conceived a daughter during her one night of love, and she raises the girl alone. Anne is yet another beauty who leaves Gussie feeling out of place in her own life. Yet Gussie loves Anne fiercely and, knowing her own wanderlust, fears the day her child will leave.
Throughout the book, Gussie throws herself with passion against a hard but beautiful world, and gains wisdom along the way. There's a loneliness to this character and her inability to settle down, which for me is reminiscent of Loyal Blood in Annie Proulx's "Postcards." Yet Gussie's self-confidence, sense of adventure, and determination to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to all resonate with me as the qualities I've always most wished to attain. I relate strongly to this wandering soul. In the end, I found her a woman of great beauty by the most lasting definitions. ...more
This was an emotionally tough read because I know the people involved, but it's a compelling true-crime drama that offers moving insights into the wayThis was an emotionally tough read because I know the people involved, but it's a compelling true-crime drama that offers moving insights into the way one act of violence can ripple through an entire family and community, changing lives and world-views forever. Reading that the mother became an advocate for victims and that the family remained strong and close-knit helps to offer an uplifting angle to a sometimes heart-wrenching dramatic arc....more
This book was both charming and subtly moving. I was impressed by how much the authors were able to reveal about characters through the exchange of leThis book was both charming and subtly moving. I was impressed by how much the authors were able to reveal about characters through the exchange of letters, without it feeling forced or unnatural, and while maintaining a unique and distinctive voice for each individual. I was also fascinated to learn about the little known part that Guernsey Island played in World War II.
At the end of the war in London, feisty, lighthearted, witty female author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, explaining that one of her old books by Charles Lamb has found its way into his hands by chance. Dawsey Adams is a shy farmer, who happens to be a member of a literary club, also formed by chance. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society began when Britain's Guernsey Island fell under Nazi occupation and its members needed an excuse for being out after curfew. Juliet is curious when Dawsey explains that it all started with a roast pig. Her curiosity leads her into an ever-deepening correspondence with the motley collection of islanders that make up Guernsey's literary club. Juliet becomes the center of a wheel of neighbors that first came together because of a similarly feisty, lighthearted and intelligent woman, Elizabeth McKenna. But Elizabeth is now among the missing, thanks to the terrible choices that war forced on her.
Elizabeth's stories of friendship and love through war and Juliet's stories of friendship and love in its aftermath, are both revealed through Juliet's correspondence with the people of Guernsey, her editor and other friends. Both of their lives are full of parallels. At first I had trouble getting into the letters as a format for uncovering relationships, but frustration quickly turned to fascination at this unusual method of revelation. By the second half of the book, I couldn't stop turning pages, to learn how Juliet would find love with the right man so late in the day, whether Elizabeth would ever make it home and just how the people of Guernsey and their new friend would recover from the losses of war. A very satisfying read....more
Of course, this book actually deserves five stars for the astonishing writing, which stands the test of time. Steinbeck's fully realized story took meOf course, this book actually deserves five stars for the astonishing writing, which stands the test of time. Steinbeck's fully realized story took me into the heart of the Great Depression and moved me to a new place. However, I also base my ratings on my level of enjoyment, which is a reflection of my personal tastes in reading, and I admit I found the story painful - as well it should be. Thus, the four stars. If you haven't read it yet, here's the thing: I believe everybody should read it, as it speaks so perfectly about all hard times, all resilient people, and many truths we still encounter today and should never forget...but you might feel a weight lowering on you as you read, and it might make you half-dread picking the book up each night to find out how the Joads are surviving. Do it anyway. ...more