I can’t tell you how long I resisted reading this “book with the funny title.” Wrong yet again! All that time I missed out on this heartwarming valentine to books and reading, and wonderful paean to hope and love.
The fictional literary society of the title was formed of necessity to outwit the Germans during their World War II occupation of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, strategically located between Britain and France. A group of friends got caught socializing after curfew and one of their more enterprising number came up with the Society as an excuse. The Germans appeared interested, and so the friends kept it up just in case the enemy should drop in for “meetings,” which indeed they did.
Subsequently, the lives of all members were transformed by the books they read. Their correspondence with one author in particular, Juliet Ashton (whose letters, notes, and telegrams form the core of the book), changes them all yet again, after Juliet can’t resist coming to Guernsey to meet the people who have been writing to her and learning more about them.
Some of the books discussed and the characters who read them include:
Dawsey Adams – Selected Essays of Elia; Biography of Charles Lamb
Isola Pribby – Wuthering Heights; Pride and Prejudice
Amelia Maugery – The Pickwick Papers
Eben Ramsey – Selections from Shakespeare
Clovis Fossey – Poems by Catullus
John Booker – The Letters of Seneca
Will Thisbee – Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present
Jonas Skeeter – The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Augustus Sarre – The Canterbury Tales
Kit Hellman – Elspeth the Lisping Bunny
Evaluation: Don’t let the quirky title of this lovely book, told in epistolary form, dissuade you from picking it up. You will enter an charming and inspirational world of bravery, hope, survival, literature, and above all, love.
Published by The Dial Press, 2008