Monday, June 1, 2009

Sent by Post

I'll admit it

I'm a blog stalker. I don't do it a lot... but I"ll admit...I do it. Its kind of fun to get a glimpse into a stranger's life, anonymously of course. To hear about their comings and goings, trials and triumphs, gains and losses.

And this latest novel is a blog stalker's dream, only it has nothing to do with blogs. In fact, the concept would have made the characters turn their heads and laugh politely into their handkerchief. This book is completely written via snail-mail, pencil-to-paper, written-letter correspondence and its fascinating.

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" takes place in 1946, post WW II era, on Guernsey, a small island in the English Channel. And from the first page, we are trespassing into someone's personal correspondence. Extremely well researched by Mary Ann Shaffer, the stories of World War II come to life through the vibrant and endearing characters she creates and the stories they tell.

Juliet, the primary letter-writer, is an author in London who is contacted by Dawsey Adams, of Guernsey, who has come across an old book of hers, books being a rare find on the once-Nazi occupied island. As their correspondence continues, we come to know the story of a group of people brought together on one fated night marking the origin of their literary society. Its an eclectic group of individuals holding fast to one another as they survive the atrocities of that terrible war.

Written-correspondence was such a brilliant way to frame this book. It immediately put me on a friendly and intimate level with the characters, privileged to conversation that might only take place between good friends. Much to the author's credit, the personality of each character is thorougly developed through these letters, with great detail and imagery creating an easy picture of events in my mind.

It certainly doesn't take long to feel drawn to Juliet as a friend. Her down-to-earth, quick-wit makes sure of that. The same is to be said of all the characters. Juliet quickly makes friends with others in the Guernsey literary society, via correspondence, as she gathers information, eventually aiming to compile a book of their war experiences. As the stories are told, the characters come to life, as well as the tragic experiences they survived. Soon enough, Juliet travels to Guernsey and comes to love the island as much as she does the people. And the feelings are reciprocated as she immerses herself in their lives.

If you enjoy World War II novels, you must read this one. "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" is a wonderful story about friends, developing relationship, surviving because of each other and the true depth and beauty of the inter-dependent weaving of friends when family is gone.

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