Monday, February 08, 2010
This was better than I expected, given its ubercute title, odd narrative structure, and overhyped back story. Did you know that the Channel Islands (located between France and England) were occupied by the Germans during World War II? I did not, before reading this book. Guernsey, along with Jersey, the largest channel island, and several other smaller islands, were occupied from 1940 to 1945. The citizens (the islands are British Crown Dependencies) suffered greatly under the occupation; many were deported to slave labor camps on the European continent, and shortages of food and medicine led to near starvation by the end of the war, and death by disease for many people.
This book is clearly well researched and tells the stories of a disparate group of islanders and how they coped with the occupation. The story is fiction but undoubtedly is based on fact. In the book a group of islanders forms a literary society as a way to conquer the intense boredom and frustration brought on by lack of contact with the outside world, but which also functions as a cover for resistance activities.
Here’s what I didn’t like: the literary gimmick of telling the whole story through letters between Juliet, a London-based writer and the various members of the literary society. Juliet is silly and a lot of time is wasted while we read about her social life. The islanders vary in their story-telling ability. Some are men of simple words, but others are loquacious nut jobs. Juliet does mature as the story evolves, and the plot advances, but I kept feeling like I just wanted someone to tell me what happened rather than forcing me to fool around with all these letters. But I am notoriously intolerant of alternate forms of story telling, so maybe this approach won’t bother you as much as it did me.
(Book 6, 2010)