17 January 2012

More books about books

I really do think that readers love to read ABOUT books (myself included) but I've never read so many books about books in a row - or noticed that I was doing so.

Finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Friday, which was recommended to me by my dear friend Stefanie.  Lots to love in this book, lots to learn, but I wasn't quite as enraptured as I had hoped to be.  It's a novel in letters - an epistolary novel, if you will - an interesting approach for this subject matter, giving an opportunity to hear "many voices" in a work of literature.  Theoretically, we could have heard from the entire island population of Guernsey through this mode.  In any situation, especially a crisis, everyone has a story to tell.

This model showcased an older style of letter writing, one that is quickly disappearing (does anyone write a letter anymore?).  Lots of warmth, "love and kisses" between corresponding friends.  There isn't so much of that in an email or text, (even though both emails and texts can be loaded with distinct "personality").

The style wasn't confusing, but I got confused anyway.  Each letter was prefaced by a "from ---- to ----", but in spite of that, partway through many of the missives I would have to go back and review who was writing to whom.  So, for me, it was a choppy, hard-to-follow go at a book.  Compounded by the fact that I typically read at short stretches (20-30 mins) or with frequent interruptions ("Mom... Mom.... Mom...")

I should have written a brief "character list" for myself.  I had a clear picture in my mind of Juliet, of course, a pretty good one of Sidney, and Isola, but not of Amelia.  I could picture Mark and Dawsey clearly enough, but not Eben or Booker or Will Thisbee.  In my mind's eye, Kit looked like my niece Bridget to me (maybe it was her spunkiness).

I LOVED learning about Guernsey during the War: their hardship, their unique experience of isolation from both England AND the Continent, but especially their creativity and resourcefulness.  I wonder if 21st century people could be so self-reliant, or even neighbor-reliant.  The people of Guernsey were concerned when they ran out of flour, and then ran out of grain to grind into flour.  Today I know many people who wouldn't know how to feed themselves properly even if they had the raw resources to do so (like: a 50 pound sack of flour, salt, lard, laying hens, etc, etc) the sort of WWII-era staple rations that Brits relied upon and felt fortunate to have - that if they have this, they have "enough".  Today people would start to freak out if they didn't have frozen dinners and take-out.

So, a thumbs up and a thumbs down.  A quick read, many charming moments, many sad and tragic ones too, but it never drew me in so that I was fully invested.

Next up: I'm about 60 pages into Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides and 40 pages into Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood.  I need to pick one and run with it, but right now they are both creepy and uncomfortable.....


  1. I loved, loved, loved 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'! I picked up the book at one of Borders fire sales super cheap, and really had no inkling of what it was all about. It did pull me in almost immediately, once I was able to get used to the epistolary style. I stayed up way too late a few nights in a row polishing it off and I will say, it is one of the few books that made cry.

    1. The best books are the ones that make you cry!!!!

  2. This was such a charming group of charectors that by the end of the book, I felt like I knew each one of them so well and I wished they were real. The style of the book being in letters was, initially, a little awkward. It gave me a greater appreciation for the lost art of letter writing. A really good story.