Feb 23, 1945, photographer Joe Rosenthal
This month in the April A to Z Challenge, I am posting about books, fiction and nonfiction that are about or set in the Second World War. The war and the people who experienced it have stories to tell and these stories are so overwhelming they lend themselves to greatness. I encourage you to sample some of these stories. I promise you will not regret taking the time. To help me develop an alphabetical list for this challenge, I used Goodreads.com. Did you know that there are more than 883 fiction and 480 nonfiction books in this genre on the website’s Listopia as voted on by members? That is a lot of stories and facts just waiting for us to explore.
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”
Isn’t that a great line? The movie for this book is due out in theaters this month so hurry up and read this outstanding novel. Published in 2008, I read this many years ago. I actually picked it up in the last chance bins at a bookstore and now with the movie, I am sure it will be back on the main shelves. By no means is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows forgettable.
In January 1946, while London is recovering from the Second World War, writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. She finds it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. Through an exchange of letters with her new correspondent, Juliet is drawn into the eccentric world of this man and his friends. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the greatest wartime alibi there ever was. This alibi resulted out of being caught breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island. In this “society” we meet the citizens of Guernsey, a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists and of course all lovers of literature. Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever. Just where is the island of Guernsey?
Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel near the French coast and is a self-governing British Crown dependency.
When I started putting together the list for the A to Z Challenge, I wanted to read this novel again but this time in an audiobook. I put myself on a long waiting list with my public library which I am happy to report, its finally my turn. What a treat this book is in audiobook form. I am a big fan of audiobooks because they make a commute to work better all around but when the prodution has five narrators for all the voices, that is pure entertainment. One of them is Juliet Mills. The format of this story is presented in the form of correspondence between the characters and it doesn’t get old.
After you read this wonderful story, don’t look for more by its author, Mary Ann Shaffer. Her life-long dream was to someday write her own book and publish it. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was her first novel. Unfortunately, she became very ill with cancer and so she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, the author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean, as well as The Magic Half, to help her finish the book. Mary Ann Shaffer died in February 2008, a few months before her first novel was published.
Don’t stop there. So many other books about or set in the time of war are available. Here are a few links to Goodreads:
Good Night Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
The Guns of Navarone by Allistair McClean
Gone to Soldier by Marge Piercy
The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill
Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides
The Good War by Studs Terkel
The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 by Rick Atkinson