I’m not going to lie, I struggled to read this book that seems to be really liked by most Goodreads reviewers. This cozy book of the Guernsey island in 1940s should have been a quick read, but somehow it took me over a month to slowly read through 250 pages.
I could tell you more about reading and how it perked up our spirits while the Germans were here.
Perhaps I should’ve just watched the recently made movie first and then read the book! 🙂
Ok, so the book title is a mouthful so I’m going to refer to it as TGLAPPPS. 🙂
I’m still a bit confused why this book did not grow on me. TGLAPPPS is a historical novel of a quaint English island of Guernsey, and the story focuses on some of the islanders who tell about their lives when they were occupied by Germans troops during the WW2. Historical novels with interesting characters and relationships are sooo my thing so TGLAPPPS should have been a breeze to read through.
For me first bump in the road was the way this book was written: almost all of the book’s stories are written in letters from the islanders to a writer, Juliet, who then becomes very interested in Guernsey island. Surprisingly I really disliked having everything in letter form as it felt like an unnecessarily confusing way of introducing the cast. There are a lot of characters writing the letters and it took me too long to recognize them individually. This was perhaps because most of the letters did not differ enough in their tone to make it feel like they were actually written by different people.
The too perfect characters were another problem for me. Spoilers here! Juliet is a writer and suddenly also a heroine of a romance novel struggling with her relationships while also balancing the narrative with very tragic fates of war victims. Another very similar character is Elizabeth, one of the islanders. She is at the centre of the whole island it seems, and her fate is the one that Juliet is most curious about. As I read further, I was almost expecting there to be a sudden revelation of Juliet and Elizabeth being secretly sisters or something. They felt so alike (not in a good way).
Both of the main female characters seemed like unique snowflakes, almost cliches in how perfect they are in their personalities and actions. One dates a wealthy dude in the city, and of course after a short time ditches him for a farmer’s life and an adopted child. Another seems to save everyone from the “bad guys” where-ever she goes, and of course falls for one of the “good German soldiers” before heroically dying when defending others. Both women are so witty and liked by everyone that it just made reading about Juliet and Elizabeth very boring to be honest.
This historical novel kind of turned into a romance novel towards the end and I really didn’t see that as a necessary thing. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy historical romances, but in this book the whole romantic plot felt like it was one thing too much as it had so many stories going on already.
The most interesting parts of this book were the small details of how people fared with their everyday lives in the island when there were soldiers occupying it. It was interesting to read how over time it became less about “them versus us” for the islanders and more about everyone suffering alike no matter which side you were on. There were many kind moments shared between islanders and the German soldiers, whether it was for sharing some of the scarce food that was left or risking your life for sneaking some illegal medicine to save another from the “opposite side”. I don’t know if these are real encounters described by those who survived those years, but it does bring some comfort to think that even in the most horrible situations, there are still those who remember humanity and strive to show it.
I think I could’ve easily really liked TGLAPPPS if it was written in a slightly different format and if the two main women had more traits to them that would’ve made them feel more like real people instead of perfect, fictional characters.
For the Reading Challenge, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society checks the prompt of:
4. The only book written by the author
This books was written by Mary Ann Shaffer and it was the only book she wrote before falling ill and passing away in 2008. Her niece Anne Barrows helped her finish the manuscript for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
What Reading Challenge? Check out my earlier post here.