Posts Tagged ‘Guernsey’

Friends and Family

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I’ll admit that I knew next to nothing about this book when I asked for it on BookMooch, but I thought it might be of interest, and it was. The sender has offered me another in the series, which I’m currently looking forward to.

Cover of Donkey's Ears Apart51. Donkey’s Ears Apart by George Torode

I somehow suspect the author mightn’t have expected a copy of this to turn up in Jerusalem, since it’s a series of reminiscences about some Guernsey characters (with greater and lesser degrees of eccentricity). Most of the datable incidents appear to be from the 50s, 60s and 70s, although since the book was published in the mid 1990s some may be later, and one or two are from the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, so the 40s. Seeing as my ancestors left Guernsey about five generations ago I certainly haven’t come across any of these individuals before.

The book appears to have been self-published, and that does come out in the proofreading, but it’s well worth the read in any case. My impression is that the author is a great oral storyteller, and has simply written his stories as he’d tell them, and 99% of the time that works great. (The other 1% is largely me being persnickity as someone who’s been paid to proofread a time or two.)

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Finding yourself at home

Thursday, 17 February 2011
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Image by Timothy Valentine via Flickr

I had heard of this book, but never had the chance to read it, until someone I got in touch with on BookMooch found out I have a family connection to Guernsey, and recommended it. I am really grateful to her!

21. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

So I still haven’t written up numbers 18 and 19 on the booklist, because of their topics of war and destruction, and yet I really enjoyed this book, even though it’s decidedly set in the aftermath of war and destruction. This is an epistolary novel, and I wonder might that have something to do with it – people are telling others what happened, and there’s a certain level of reserve and protection involved, although at least some of the horrors of Nazi occupation and the concentration camps are shown clearly.

The novel is set in (or at least the letters are from) 1946 in London (with a brief tour of the British mainland) and Guernsey, where lives are being rebuilt after the horrors of war. Juliet Ashton is enjoying the success of a book based on the newspaper columns she wrote during the war, but not at all sure what she’s going to write about next, when she somewhat randomly receives a letter from a Guernsey-man who has bought second-hand a book she had sold a duplicate copy of. She is intrigued by his mentioning the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and its coming “into being because of a roast pig we had to keep secret from the German soldiers” during the island’s Occupation and continues the correspondence both with him and other Society members. She also continues to correspond with old friends and others, and we are thus given a fairly rounded picture both of her and the Society.

I laughed out loud at several points, and cried a couple of times. The voices are distinguished (some more than others, but there’s a level of realism in that) and believable, and the characters are worth caring about (even the ones we might love-to-hate). Considering the lack of contact between the Channel Islands and Britain during WWII itself, the level of explanations required for the modern reader without specific local knowledge of the history is reasonable, and eye-opening. Another area for me to look into the ‘real’ history!

This is one I’m pretty sure I’ll be rereading more than once.