I received this book in possibly one of the best ways to receive a book: Quite at random, through the post, a borrowing from a friend. Quite appropriately, too, for this book, which is written in letter-form and begins by exploring what books and reading meant for the Guernsey islanders under the German Occupation of Guernsey during World War II.
The letters begin in January 1946, between a popular wartime columnist and the publisher of a collected volume of her columns. And then the writer, currently trying to think of a topic for her next book, receives a random letter from a gentleman on Guernsey who happens to now possess an old book of her own – fortunately labelled with her name and address on the fly-leaf. And so begins the correspondence between author Juliet Ashton and literary society.
There’s a wonderfully nosy feeling one gets when reading another’s letters (or is that just me?), especially when each of the characters are so wonderfully realised and brought to life through their own letters, and through the letters of their friends and neighbours, as the entire literary society begins writing to Juliet. It is really quite a lovely study in human behaviour and relationships forged in difficult times. It also made me want to find a local book-club.
Ordinarily, I might now recommend looking out more works by the author – Mary Ann Shaffer – but unfortunately she died in 2008, and the rewriting requested by her publisher was carried out by her niece, Annie Barrows – who writes children’s books. Perhaps if you wish for new books to read to your children, looking her books up would be a good idea.