rating: 5 of 5 stars
I LOVED this book. Let me count the ways.
1) It’s an epistolary novel–that is, written as a series of letters. I don’t know why I love this way of telling a story, but I do. It’s deliciously like eavesdropping, and has such a cozy, familiar voice.
2) The characters are delightful and engaging. They make you want to visit them on Guernsey, and it definitely feels like you could. They seem very real, but with not much description. The best character sketches, I think, are like that iconic Picasso sketch of Don Quixote: the lines give you a perfect picture of the character, but there’s no cluttering extraneous detail. Very clean, all show, no tell.
Anyway, the characters are the selling point on this one. I put down this book and felt like I could hop on a plane and go see them.
3) The vivid picture of a particular moment in time. The story is set just after WWII, and concerns the Nazi occupation of the Isle Guernsey. I knew that England was under constant threat of invasion, but I didn’t realize that the channel islands had been occupied. They had a horrible time of it, and the story centers around how the characters survived with their sanity intact, and how they recover, and are still recovering, from this.
Books play a large part in this. An important theme is how literature helps us relate to the world, to know, when you read something, that someone has experienced what you have, and put it into words. This is a booklover’s book.
4) This book made people look at me funny. I was reading this in a restaurant in Vicksburg, MS, and I laughed out loud, and then I cried, and tried to hide it behind my napkin, but the waitress asked me if I was okay anyway. These characters really got to me.
I do wonder if some of my connection with this book is my own family history. My mother was born in Holland, during the Nazi occupation, and some of the stories in this book remind me of some things my Oma has said. Which isn’t much.
I loved this book, and it stayed with me long after I finished it. Highly recommended.