Ever find yourself with a reading theme going on? You’re in a mystery mood? Or a Stephen King mood? Lately I’ve been on a search for Guernsey books. I know, seems an unlikely reading theme. Truth be told, I didn’t actually know Guernsey was a place (geography has never been my strong suit). Yes, I had heard of Guernsey cows. But who knew they were named after a place? Yes, I had heard of(but never got around to reading) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Thought it was named after the cows! Then I read The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy.
Turns out Guernsey is a tiny island…part of the Channel Islands. A group of islands in the English Channel owned(?) by Great Britain. During World War II, Hitler got it into his head that these tiny islands would be very important to his invasion of England. But, because there were so few people living on them and Winston Churchill didn’t consider them key to an invasion of England, the country decided to just let them go to the Germans without fighting for them. They did offer to relocate children and mothers of infants to London but basically they were, “you guys are on your own if the Germans come.” Well, the Germans did come: occupying the islands, living in homes islanders had abandoned, sending some remaining islanders to prisons in France and Germany for disobeying rules of Occupation, and cutting those still on the island off from any news, letters, or supplies. Seems these people were just about starving by the end of the five year Occupation. Who knew?
First I read The Soldier’s Wife about the wife of a man who has joined the English Army. She’s forced to balance her need to “make nice’ with the Occupying forces to protect her mother-in-law and two daughters and her feeling of duty to protest against the Occupying forces. Not to mention the complication of falling in love with one of the German officers. I loved it! First, it was an aspect of World War II I had never heard of before. Second, the story was riveting. I gobbled up the pages, knowing each page would bring another problem, another ethical question, another beautiful description of Guernsey. You have to read it!
After I finished The Soldier’s Wife I remembered The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which was published in 2009. I tracked down a copy and read this book which is written entirely in letters. In this one, a London writer in 1946 stumbles upon a detail of the Occupation (their Literary and Potato Peel Society) and wants to know more about it. She corresponds with islanders and then, when she’s visiting the Guernsey Islands, corresponds with her friends in London. The book tells the story of the literary society–and in the process the story of the Occupation–as well as the story of the writer’s life. Completely in letters!
Now I’m searching for my next Guernsey book(fiction or non-fiction). I welcomes any suggestions!
Have you ever found yourself following a reading theme?