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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Finished this one on the plane. Quaint, slow paced and lovely is what I have to say about this book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows. The novel is structured as letters between Juliet Ashton, her friends and the subjects of her new book (the fine folks of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society).

It’s 1946. London is emerging from the Second World War and Juliet is a writer looking for her next subject. Sheis bright and pretty (two things difficult to do on the same day) and she is the writer behind a popular war column “Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War”. The column is a humorous look at the dreary days of war, and it became popular and well-loved because of its lightheartedness. With the war over, Juliet is looking for other subjects. What leads her to the GLPPPS is a that Guernsey islander Dawsey, who’s purchased a second hand book on Charles Lamb, decides to write its previous owner, who happens to be Juliet. This puts in motion the letter writing between Juliet and Dawsey, then Juliet and other members of the society. The letters give Juliet and us a look at what happened to the islanders during the German occupation of Guernsey.

The letter structure really makes this novel feel like non-fiction. So much so that you forget it’s a novel. The characters are wonderful, charming and likeable, again the velocity is island pace. Not a page-turner but not a humdrum novel either. Gentle, quaint and lovely.

I enjoyed this novel.

Greetings from Jordan

Well we survived the long flight to London, which was made extra long by the fact that neither the Rabbit (aka my mom) nor I bothered to double check the flight time. Our itinerary said 3:30 but the eticket said 4:50. Brilliant because who doesn’t love to be at the airport 2 hours early for an international flight, plus 1.5 hours extra early. Ideal really, especially if the flight itself is 9.5 hours. 13 lucky hours!

It wasn’t so bad actually. The flight was ok. I read mostly and didn’t feel too jetlagged when we arrived. I had a short sleep then we wandered around the town of Horley (near Gatwick). Dinner at the 6 Bells, which is a great little pub, then back to bed. The next day we took the tube into London, did the “left luggage” at Victoria station and then bombed around London on the sightseeing tour. We didn’t have a lot of time so we went to Buckingham Palace, which is walking distance from Victoria station. Watched the changing of the guard in the pouring rain. Wondered if they have to blow-dry those big buffalo hats they wear. Then carried on to the Phoenix for lunch. This is another great pub just off the beaten path. I ordered an incredibly tasty risotto, had a couple of bites and then traded with the Rabbit for her penne with tomato and mushroom and pesto. The Rabbit cannot eat pesto because she is allergic to pine nuts. Good bye delicious risotto.

In many ways all the things I do to James come back to haunt me when I travel with my mom. He once traded me his beautiful steak for my cheesy pasta dish. James is not a cheesy pasta guy. So gallant.

Back to my travel tale though. After Buckingham Palace and our delicious lunch (the pasta was very good), we made our way to St. Paul’s. The toss up was Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s and my preference is always St. Paul’s. Westminster feels oppressive to me, like the walls are caving in. There is so much to look at whereas St. Paul’s is incredibly beautiful but airy.

Then we took the tour bus along London Bridge, past London Tower and got out at the Embankment. We took the tube to Victoria station, walked across to Victoria Coach Station and took the bus to Gatwick. It was harrowing. We made the bus late by 2 minutes but made the bus, which was the important part.

The flight to Amman was uneventful and fairly empty so I had a full row to myself for the 5 hour trip. We arrived at 4:30 am, the driver was late, and by the time we arrived at the hotel and were in our rooms it was 6 am. The short nap was 8 hours long (woke up at 2 pm). There was some delay leaving the room, much puttering. Tea in the caffe at the hotel with cookies. By the time that was done it was time for dinner so we went to the Italian restaurant. Poor Rabbit was thwarted by pesto a second time. Her cheesy pasta arrived with pesto sprinkled on top. It looked lovely but under no circumstances was I trading my veal dish.

Today is another rest day and on Saturday we leave for Petra.

Life is good. Not much to do at the moment, which is why I’m on the interwebs.