guernseyI really liked this book. I read it on recommendation of a friend who declared it one of her top three favorite books read in 2008. I’m not certain that it will be a long-lasting favorite, but I liked it.

When I started reading, I groaned audibly and frantically paged through the first few chapters realizing that, blech, it is a book of letters. I detest that format! I do. I hate it. However, it works for this book–and you have to understand how grudgingly I say that. The book has a legitimate reason for being based upon letters that is completely authentic: a man without a local book source, writes a letter to the former owner of a book he came by for more information about the book’s author. I like that. Very much. There is something very comforting about connecting with people over like interests… but in important ways. So this story begins with the former owner of the book being a new authoress herself–in search of her next story. The man and the people from the island where he lives have just such a story.

Set in post-war England and the Channel Islands, Guernsey Literary Society is a historical treasure. For someone my age, I have a vague notion of the sacrifices that civilians were not asked but required to give for their countries during the war, but I certainly didn’t understand the extent nor make the connection that for years after the war, people were still on rations for so many items: food, clothing and so forth. Indeed, given that we have been at war for the entire duration of my daughter’s life and then some, it’s amazing to me that I don’t sacrifice anything in the least little bit on any day for the war mongering we do abroad. I’m so not going down that road in this blog though.

The letters are sent back and forth from this new authoress to several characters who live on Guernsey and who tell their tales about the war. Some are amusing. Some are mostly harmless. Some leave you in tears or make your face distort with horror. This book is able to force your eyes open and educate you on lesser known horrors, or perhaps more accurately, those that time has forgot, without beating you over the head with it–and it leaves a lasting impression.

I think what I liked best about this book is that the characters are so full of life, so real. I laughed and cried and smiled and sat thoughtfully as I read. Their stories moved me. I also really loved watching the new authoress mature a bit and come into her own in so many areas of her life–almost as though her character drew the strength, wisdom, and maturity from the stories the Guernsey folk shared with her.

This is a must read–pick a few quiet, chilly evenings to curl up with it on the couch. Oh, and this is definitely not chick lit–my husband is reading it now.