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Tuesday, 26 October 2010
By Libby Cone
This is a very unusual book. Based on Libby Cone’s MA thesis, it is a fictionalised account of some of the real events that took place on Jersey during the Second World War.
The story is interspersed with original documents from the time, which add depth to the narrative and increase the chilling sense of reality that runs through it. Most people will be aware of the treatment of the Jewish population of Jersey during the Nazi occupation, but this account brings it vividly to life.
The counterpoint to the part of the narrative that deals with occupation and war, is the telling of some very different love stories. A shy young woman desperately trying to hide her partly Jewish heritage and an escaped prisoner; two women working for the resistance; an elderly Jewish woman and her infirm husband. All of their stories show how love can triumph even in the squalor and terror of war and the brutality of the Nazi regime.
The real life story of the artists and resistance workers Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore is cleverly woven into the story and adds a new dimension. Their story is fascinating.
I do recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this period and wants to read a very human account of it. I was gripped by the story throughout.
Reviewed by Helen M Hunt
Monday, 18 October 2010
by Mary Ann Shaeffer & Annie Barrows
I had this book in my 'To Be Read' pile for months, probably even a year, and wasn’t sure if I was that interested in reading it despite the good reviews. However, my aunt asked me what I thought of it and couldn’t believe it when I told her I hadn’t read further than the first line or two. Knowing she’d be asking me again, I thought I’d take another look and now I’m a convert.
The book is set in 1946. Juliet Ashton, an author, is bored with the book she’s supposed to be writing and needs to find inspiration. Dawsley Adams, a farmer from Guernsey, nervously writes to Juliet telling her he has a book that once belonged to her and asking for her help in locating the address of a London bookshop. They begin writing to each other and Dawsley tells Juliet all about being a member of the 'Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society' and how the mysterious club came into being during the years that Guernsey was occupied by the Germans.
More members of the Society, as well as other locals with a grudge towards them, write to Juliet, filling her in on the background of their society and the tragic events that they endured during the war years. Juliet gets to know these extraordinary characters through their letters and discovers that the inhabitants of this small island, so close to France, are far more intriguing than she could have ever imagined.
I loved this book. As you read the letters, you feel as if you’re watching a particularly good wartime film. It’s beautifully written and the only negative about this book is the fact that the author, Mary Ann Shaeffer died just before it was published and so it’s one of a kind. I’ll be keeping my copy as I know it’s a book I’ll be returning to time and again.
Reviewed by Debs Carr
Thursday, 14 October 2010
Friday, 8 October 2010
By Kate Atkinson
I love Kate Atkinson and I love Jackson Brodie, so I knew I was going to enjoy this book – the fourth in the Brodie series – before I started.
Although there’s no reason why this book shouldn’t be read as a stand-alone novel, I would always recommend with a series like this that they ideally be read in order. In any case it would be a shame to miss out on the other three books (Case Histories, One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News), as they are all fabulous.
One of the joys of reading this series is the development of Jackson Brodie as a character through time, and also the examination of the shifting sands of his relationships with the significant people in his life.
As ever Kate Atkinson’s writing is rich with imagery and allusion. And this time an overlay of historical detail adds another dimension. The shocking real life events of Yorkshire in the seventies provide a backdrop and counterpoint to the present day events of the novel.
Difficult themes are tackled in the course of Jackson’s latest adventure. Death, murder, illness, infertility, treachery and betrayal are all woven in to the story. But Kate Atkinson manages to do this in such a way that the beauty of human life and the joy of just existing shine through the pain. Despite the depressing subject matter, it is not a depressing book.
Reading Kate Atkinson is always like disappearing into a different and slightly disconcerting world where reality is thrown into sharp relief. This exchange sums it up for me.
‘‘You can see why Dracula landed here, can’t you?’ the driver of the Avensis said.
‘Dracula isn’t real,’ Jackson pointed out. ‘He’s a fictional character.’
The driver shrugged and said, ‘Fact, fiction, what’s the difference?’’
Each character is drawn exquisitely and even the minor ones take on a vivid presence. From guesthouse landlady of a certain age, Mrs Reid, to Canadian security guard, Leslie, they all have a life of their own.
Without giving anything away, I really hope the ending indicates that a further Jackson Brodie book is on its way. I hope I don’t have too long to wait. But, meanwhile, I might just read this one again.
Reviewed by Helen M Hunt