Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Redeux: The guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

I know that I've already done a review for this book here, but I'm in an online book club with Tasha from Heidenkind's Hideaway, and our book to read this month was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society and we decided to do our reviews together in letter form: (To see the rest of the letter please go to her site.) I know-nothing from me in a week, now two posts in one day!)

Letters from Heidenkind (Tasha) to me:
Chere Colette,

I think even with the explanation for the name of the society, it's still pretty strange. But I do have a hankering to try to make a potato peel pie now, even though it'll probably be incredibly gross.

Smutty books? You??? Actually, my grandfather reads trashy romances all the time and he's one of those quiet and sensitive types, so you never know. Women read "smutty" books and they're not creepy, so why would a man be? In fact, now that you've got me thinking about it, this doesn't sound like a half bad idea. Except we would have to make sure to only put our addresses in the romance novels we liked so that the imaginary men who might pick them up don't get the wrong idea about us. Dating via old books! How romantic. :)

Clooney is way too huggable to be Mark. Plus, I could imagine him understanding why someone would like to read. Whereas Captain Jack... haha, kidding. Mainly I just pictured him as Harkness because of the 1940's-style clothing he always wears. Mark did start to get really annoying near the end of the book--actually, I take that back, he was annoying from the very start with masses of flowers he kept sending Juliet even though they didn't know each other at all. I would have sent him a note that said, "Thank you for the flowers, but please stop. Stalker." And it was always about him, wasn't it. HE wants to go to a fancy restaurant, so that's what they do; HE wants to get married so how dare she need time to think about it. What a jerk! I thought it was interesting when Juliet compared him to her ideal romantic hero--Ransom from Master of Blackheath--but said that she was no romantic heroine, so it would never work out. That got me to thinking if I would be able to marry some of the characters I fell in love with when I was a teenager, like Mr. Darcy or Sir John Smythe. But I don't really know since I've never met (let alone dated) anyone like that. Did you ever date someone who was like a character out of a book? And do you think that "Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life," as Isola put it?

As for Dawsey, it's not that I dislike him--it's just that he's there. Like a lump. I didn't really get much sense of his personality through his letters, certainly not enough to like or dislike him. And he doesn't really do much, does he? I guess if he looked like Lawrence Fox it would be another story... wait, not really. Because I still would be waiting for the guy to say something.

Haha, the one good German--poor Christian. He's an anathema to his countrymen. I hadn't heard of the Toldt slaves before this book--I didn't even know there were islands in the English Channel or that they were occupied during WWII before this book. I also want to visit Guernsey now, though! I think one of the things I loved about the novel is that there are some really dark and terrible things that happen to the people on the island during the occupation--the Toldt slaves, which was simply horrible; and both Elizabeth and John Booker going to concentration camps on the Continent--but those events don't make the book itself, or the characters, sad or depressing at all. It's really all about how the human spirit and hope can endure even the worst of situations, don't you think? One of the annoying things, though, was when Juliet said the parents sending their children away to the English countryside was "the worst thing." Really? The WORST thing? Come on now. Personally I thought the mass execution of all the pets on the island was pretty terrible, but I think it just went to show how harsh things were at the time. The parents who sent their kids away should just be happy they weren't conscripted to build bombs, if you ask me. Not to mention that the kids had an adventure while they were away and maybe even stumbled across an old wardrobe.

I got my copy from the library, too, and I don't want to give it back! I wonder if I could trade them The Thirteenth Tale for it. I totally loved Juliet for trying to save her books from the fire. I don't know what I would do if I lost all my books. Probably cry and cry.

One of the book discussion questions that I thought would be fun is "Do you agree with Isola that 'reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones'?" I would say no, since I still enjoy my trashy romance novels--the trashier, the better! But on the other hand, if I've just read a book that I really enjoyed, I have a much lower tolerance for a book that isn't capturing my attention. What do you think?

A bientot,


From me to Tasha:

Dear Tasha,
Ok, The name of the book is pretty weird, but I still love it. You're not going to forget a book with a name like that! I'm glad I'm not the only one who hadn't heard of the Toldt slaves, or that the British Channel Islands were occupied by Germany during WWII. Like you, I'm glad that certain aspects of the book like Elizabeth going to the concentration camp didn't encompass the entire story line. I liked how Juliet gradually wrote letters to everyone on the island and what their experiences were like during the war. It made me feel like I was there with them.

You asked what made me love Dawsey Adams so much, and to be honest I'm not really sure. I think maybe it was his quietness, and the ability to be there when it mattered for different people without having to be the center of attention. He just grew on me and before I knew he was one of my favorite male leads in a book. To answer your question if I've ever had a boyfriend that was like one of the characters in one of my books the answer is no. I think that Isola is right and that men are more interesting in books-I think that's why we read romances sometimes, because the men in the romances are how we'd like the guys we date to be, but aren't. However, I wouldn't be like some of the characters I've read in books (like the girl in Jane Austen Ruined My Life) and not date someone because they weren't enough like Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth or Edward Cullen. That's just ignoring the real reason you don't want to date someone-but that is a whole other letter. I love the idea of putting our address only in the romances that we really love! I would have to definetly put my address in The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, (Jamie Fraser still holds a place in my heart. Talk about your heros. Oh la la!)

Now you that you have me Mark picturing as Jack Harkness from Torchwood I can't get that image out of my head, and I can't remember why I thought that George Clooney could ever pass as Mark. I can understand why Juliet fell for him in the beginning though-after so many years of doing without and being on her own, it must have been nice to have some one give you gifts and want to take care of you. I have to admit though, red flags went off on him right from the start. I mean who sends that many flowers to someone?? You mentioned that one of the things that Juliet said about the parents sending their children away to the English countryside was "the worst thing." and how that annoyed you. What annoyed me more then that was how the islanders just let Elizabeth's little girl stay with Juliet after a short period of time. Who does that? There were aspects of the storyline that I wished there were more of-like her editor who was gay and the guy he went to find who was hurt from the war. I loved how the editor and Isola Side note: (Do I have the right character?) became friends. I wish he had been in the book more.

I almost forgot to ask you-how do you feel about two people writing a book? I've found it hardly ever works, so when I saw that there two authors for this book, that was written in letter format I got worried. Then I read how Mary Ann Shaffer got really sick (and has since died) and her niece Annie Barrows finished editing it for her. That story just seems to fit with the entire book, and didn't affect the flow of the story at all. I thought it was one of the most heartwarming books I've read in a long time. Which brings me to this question you asked: Do you think that good books make it harder to read bad books? I've often wondered the opposite thing: Does reading several bad books in a row make a so-so book wonderful? I couldn't help but wonder if that's why I liked the book and Dawsey as much as I did. (the heros the books preceeding this one weren't very sigh-worthy.)

I'm glad you liked this book even if you weren't in love with Dawsey like I was. I hope that I like the book that you chose for the book club just as much-The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I read it when it came out in 2005, but don't really remember much about it. I just remember the ending of the book. (How weird is that?)
Dear Colette,

I liked the title of the book, too. Very unique, and you want to pick the book up to see what it's about.

So you wouldn't not date someone just because they weren't a sparkly vampire? I'm disappointed. Standards, Colette, standards! ;) Anyway, I do think Dawsey was kind of like Mr. Darcy--right? So in the end, Juliet did wind up with a romantic hero, just not the sort she thought she wanted. I would have definitely given Mark a chance, too, although I would have found the fact that his name is Markham instead of just Mark suspicious.

I also thought it was odd that the islanders just let Kit live with Juliet; but maybe they let her sleep wherever she wanted, and she decided she wanted to stay with Juliet. Who knows. I wish there had been more romance in the book (of course). Would a love letter or two have killed anyone??? Isola (yes, that's the right character) was cute, but if she'd been in the story any more, she might have become annoying. I did like Sydney, but here's one of the plot elements that confused me: his secretary, Billee Bee, apparently read all his correspondence, which he left sitting on his desk for anyone to look at, in an attempt to find something to defame him with. So wouldn't she have seen Isola's letter to him where she mentions he's a homosexual?

It's funny that the book having two authors giving you some concern, because I usually avoid books with multiple authors, too. Too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak. But in this case the novel flowed really well.

I don't think reading meh books makes good books seem better than they are; I think it just makes you appreciate the fact that you're finally reading a good book more! (Wait, that sentence made no sense....)

I hope The Historian is good, too, although if you can't remember anything about it, that's not a very promising sign. Maybe we should read something else...?
Dear Tasha,

I loved Guernsey so much and I could go on about it forever. I was thinking about my favorite characters in the society, and honestly I don't think I have a favorite. They were each special in their own way. What I loved most was how it introduced me to authors I knew nothing about. I know I've mentioned this but I loved how each member was so passionate about the books they read for the meeting. Do you think we should try that for the book club? Try to convince each other why we should read a favorite book of ours? When I was doing some online sleuthing for more information about this book I came upon this little sentence: "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.” I don't know about you, but I've often wondered about this question..don't you wonder sometimes how certain books you normally wouldn't read find a home on your bookshelf?
When I finished Guernsey I really, really wanted to go to the British Channel islands. I wonder if I'll want to go to Romania after I read the Historian again? I really think I'll like the Historian by Elizabeth Kostova better this time around because I believe my reading tastes have changed since I read it last. Do you find that your reading tastes change over the years? I think that a vampire story is a perfect choice to read for our October book. This description of the book from makes me anxious to read the book again:
From Goodreads
In this riveting debut of breathtaking scope, a young girl discovers her father's darkest secret and embarks on a harrowing journey across Europe to complete the quest he never could -- to find history's most legendary fiend: Dracula. When a motherless American girl living in Europe finds a medieval book and a package of letters, all addressed ominously to "My dear and unfortunate successor..." she begins to unravel a thread that leads back to her father's past, his mentor's career, and an evil hidden in the depths of history. In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright: a hunt that nearly brought her father to ruin and may have claimed the life of his adviser and dear friend, history professor Bartholomew Rossi. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, have to do with the 20th century? Is it possible that Dracula has lived on in the modern world? And why have a select few historians risked reputation, sanity, and even their lives to learn the answer? So begins an epic journey to unlock the secrets of the strange medieval book, an adventure that will carry our heroine across Europe and into the past -- not only to the times of Vlad's heinous reign, but to the days when her mother was alive and her father was still a vibrant young scholar. In the end, she uncovers the startling fate of Rossi, and comes face to face with the definition of evil-- to find, ultimately, that good may not always triumph.
I hope we both enjoy The Historian as much as we loved the last book.
Until next time-

(To see the rest of the letter please go to her site.)