This delightful book was sprung upon me by my book club and I don’t regret it for one minute! I probably would have picked it up if I’d read the blurb on the back cover – but I might not have picked it up thinking the cover was too ‘romance’. It is slightly romantic, but only in a ‘life’ way.
Juliet Ashton is an author. Immediate sympathies go out to her. She is struggling to find her next book. Double the sympathies. Her book based on the wartime column she wrote as Izzy Bickerstaff has thrust her into an unwanted limelight – through book tours and interviews, and a good deal of muckraking by a jealous editor. Way outside my experiences then 😉 But I’ve already warmed to her, and nothing she does during this delightful and occasionally harrowing tale, unfolded through correspondence with friends, a would-be lover, editors, and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, changes my affection for her. Full of human weaknesses. She does the sort of thing you’d do. Ok, I’d do them too, if I had the chance.
My experience of stories told through the medium of letters has, so far, been a 100% thumbs-up. 84 Charing Cross Road is a rare case of a film perfectly delivering the printed page. My friend Sue did a delightful book of letters from the works supervisor of the pyramid building company to the Pharaoh, lamenting the working practices and failure of contractors…. I think I delight in a story told through complaints and perspective that can be unfolded in a letter to a specific person, even more than a prose work told to the generic reader. It’s a bit like eavesdropping. But letters show you so much, not only of the writer’s problem, but the writer’s perspective too. What Ms Shaffer and Ms Barrows do in this book is to give us multiple perspectives of postwar Britain (and a little of France) and especially of life in Guernsey during the German Occupation, through the correspondence with said Literary Society (a book club), with its huge diversity of members. Small town life at its best – and worst!
I read the first quarter on a Friday train, and finished the rest off on Sunday afternoon and evening. I was desperate to get back to it. Reading the after-words, I found that Ms Shaffer was unable to complete the book and the task passed to a relative, Ms Barrows. If that is the basis of the last section, the journal of a would-be Miss Marple then I applaud all concerned as it is a masterful winding up, and deals nicely with any differences in style between the two authors. Praise all round.
I read a library copy of this book as part of my book club list. I might go and buy my own copy for a re-read.