Gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush, gush!!! GUSH!!!!! So yes, clearly I loved this book.
I think the only person I wouldn’t recommend this book to is one of those people who only read meaty tomes that might give regular people a brain embolism while they’re trying to make sense of the 17 different layers of subconscious meaning. I’d also hesitate from recommending this book to most men. However, if you have the ability to find joy and delight in the simple pleasures of a feel-good book, you too might fall in love with this story.
The book is written entirely in an epistolary format, consisting of letters back and forth between Juliet Ashton, a young author in 1946 London and several of her contacts and friends. It is just after WWII and people are trying to reclaim their lives and figure out if and how to move on from the tragedy of the war.
Juliet receives an unsolicited letter from a man who lives on the island of Guernsey, one of the small islands situated in the English Channel between France and England (known for having loose regulations and financial secrecy in the modern world thereby making it attractive to fraudsters, money launderers and criminals, but that has nothing to do with this story and why it is enjoyable, I just couldn’t help myself from mentioning it). But anyway, Dawsey Adams of Guernsey acquires a used book that had originally been owned by Juliet. She had penned her name and address inside the cover and Dawsey decided to write her a letter to share how much he’d enjoyed her secondhand book and how reading books had helped several Guernsey residents cope during the time of the German Occupation of their island. Before long, Juliet is corresponding regularly with Mr. Adams and several other Guernsey residents, all who had been a part of the Literary Society. She learns that the Society was initially formed as a front to explain a broken curfew but eventually became a rewarding opportunity to meet with friends and discuss a love of books. Eventually, Juliet travels to Guernsey to meet her island pen friends and it was hard for me to put the book down and get any work done!
The letters back and forth between Juliet and her friends gave the book a personal touch and it felt like we were being given an inside look into these peoples’ lives. I subscribe to the belief that letter-writing is a lost art form and appreciate books that are heavy on the letters and found the format enjoyable and easy to approach. There is also a very sweet love story in between these pages that made me sigh with contentment when the book ended. It was a highly satisfying read and I think that most book lovers would also enjoy this story.
Even though most of us don’t write letters anymore, I think we will identify and be attracted to the notion of maintaining a long-distance correspondence with someone and developing a friendship with someone we’ve never even met (hello? Anybody chat/email with friendly strangers on the internet?) Juliet becomes quite close to her Guernsey friends and there was one passage in particular when she is finally embarking on her trip to meet her pen friends that rung true for me because it was eerily similar to the thoughts I’ve had on the occasion when I’ve met “net friends” who crossed that boundary to become “real life friends” and it’s that, “oh god, oh god, oh god, what if we don’t like each other? What if my words misled them? What if I’m not as interesting in person as they thought I was online?”
”As the mail boat lurched into the harbor, I saw St. Peter Port rising up from the sea on terraces, with a church on the top like a cake decoration, and I realized that my heart was galloping. As much as I tried to persuade myself it was the thrill of the scenery, I knew better. All those people I’ve come to know and even love a little, waiting to see—me. And I, without any paper to hide behind…in these past two or three years, I have become better at writing than living…On the page, I’m perfectly charming, but that’s just a trick I learned. It has nothing to do with me. T least, that’s what I was thinking as the mail boat came toward the pier. I had a cowardly impulse to throw my red cape overboard and pretend I was someone else.”
As if I hadn’t already fallen in love with Juliet and her friends by this point, reading that passage actually brought tears to my eyes (not even kidding) because I knew exactly what she was feeling at that precise moment because I’ve been there before. So yes, I loved this book. It was beautiful and charming and a sheer delight to read.
However, I think potato peel pie sounds disgusting and I wouldn’t want to eat it.