Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThis book was passed onto me by a work colleague who couldn’t recommend it to me enough. And almost immediately I could see why.

Even without the recommendation, the title alone would have attracted me to this poignant and touching story about life in German occupied Guernsey. Told through a series of letters between a young writer, Juliet Ashton, and members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The book follows the highs and lows of life on the islands during the Second World War.

The book opens in 1946 with Juliet seeking inspiration for her second novel. When she stumbles across the Literary society shew soon finds herself on a ferry to Guernsey to find out more. Still suffering from the ravages of the war, the people of the island take her as one of their own and Juliet’s life begins to change forever.

The use of letters to tell the story makes it much more intimate than a normal narrative would have been. You get a much better understanding of each of the characters and how the two strands of the story impact on all their lives.

For Juliet, the islanders provide not just the inspiration for her own book, but also a new direction for her life.

Populated with beautifully portrayed characters, this is an inspiring, touching and compelling take. I found myself totally captivated by the members and their stories.

What really comes across is the author’s fascination with Guernsey, but what is not so obvious is that she was American. Mary Ann Shaffer wrote the book after prompting from her local book club, but due to ill health, asked her niece, Annie Barrows to help her finish the book.

It’s a totally captivating book. What a shame it was Mary Ann’s only novel. 

The Spire

by William Golding

The SpireThere are some books that for whatever reason just don’t quite satisfy or live up to expectation. Unfortunately, “The Spire” proved to be just such a book. From the very first page a felt disconnected from the main character and his story.

William Golding is one of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century; his classic “Lord Of The Flies” is required reading in literature classes. I myself read the book at school and have gone on to read several more. But for me “The Spire”, despite the claims of critics, is just not in the same league.

The story centres around Dean Jocelin who believes that God has chosen him to build a spire on is Cathedral. But the building has no foundations and everyone, including the builder he hires to help him realise his vision. But Jocelin is determined, even obsessed, and pushes himself and all those around him to extremes to ensure the spire is built.

Throughout the book, Jocelin faces demons both real and imaginary. He is tormented and sadly, so is the story. Maybe I was not in the right frame of mind to appreciate this book, but for me “The Spire” failed to inspire. As you might expect, the book is well written and full of insight, but the story lacks the very foundations that threaten the Dean’s vision.

How To Fall In Love

by Cecelia Ahern

How To Fall In LoveIt is somewhat disingenuous to class Cecelia Ahern’s books as rom-coms, but I must admit it is something I have often been guilty of. True, her books generally have all the right ingredients: lonely young woman meets lonely young man in unusual circumstances; they become friends, things go wrong due to misunderstandings, they realise their mistakes, make up and live happily ever after.

In this case, even the title screams “rom-com” at you. But this book, like many of her other takes of romance has a sharp edge to it that cuts through the usual comedy.

In “How To Fall In Love” Cecelia Ahern brings the often taboo subjects of suicide and depression right to the fore. Finding herself confronted by someone attempting suicide, Christine Rose is determined to do something to keep the handsome (obviously) Adam from ending it all. She has her own motivations, not least of which is that it is the second time in a week she has found herself face to face with a man trying to kill himself.

Known to her friends and family as a Miss fix-it, Christine faces her toughest challenge to date: proving that life is worth living, even when everything seems too dark to continue. And she has just two weeks to do it in, whilst at the same time dealing with the breakdown of her marriage.

Throughout the book the characters of Christine and Adam are drawn closer to each other as they both begin to face their demons and re-discover what really matters to them.

If you take a moment to stand back and think about it, the plot is so fanciful and full of holes, you might wonder how it hangs together. But strangely enough, it does, and very well.

Depression is a difficult subject to discuss, but Cecilia Ahern deals with it with humour, compassion and skill.

“How To Fall In love” may not be a modern classic, but I found it strangely refreshing and heart-warming. Just what I needed to get me through the Christmas holidays.