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This book came highly recommended by a few of my friends, stating the old adage of ‘once you’ve gone past the first page, you wouldn’t want to put it down’. The synopsis at the back cover of the book didn’t reveal much, except this:

January 1946: Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

1. ‘Hook you in’ from the first page.

I must say that I had my skepticism about reading  a book that was narrated entirely of correspondence, from start to finish. It started… somewhat mellow, I must say, and lacked the punch line that made me go, “Oh my God! I have to find out what happens next!”

2. Be so riveting it keeps reeling you in, and you find it difficult to put the book down.

This is how unenthused I was about this book. I had had it for a year, managed to read the first 3-4 pages of it when I first bought it, put it down with a thought to ‘pick it up later’, and forgot all about it. When I did pick it up again, for the first few pages, I had to keep telling myself, “keep at it. Maybe it will pick up soon and surprise you.”

3. Convey a powerful message and/or educate me on topical issues.

Surprise me it did. As the book went on, it described the aftermath of the war, from a writer’s perspective living in London. It also revealed of the German occupation during World War II on Guernsey Channel Island, near France. It told in details of arrest and imprisonment of a Guernsey Channel Island resident for being caught of hiding and treating a German slave.

I have always been fascinated by anything written about World War II – in history books, reference materials, fiction, and otherwise. I’m not exactly sure why. I think it’s a combination of being interested in finding out how tough things could get during the war, making me appreciate the abundance I have in my life currently. I’m also intrigued at how people cope at the extenuating circumstance they may find themselves in; how they would behave, and act the way they normally wouldn’t had they not been caught in the middle of a war. And I’m always hoping for a ‘fairy tale’ aftermath – you know, the kind that the main character(s) doesn’t go into deep depression. Yes, they may have their trauma, their nightmares; yes, it’s definitely understandable that they refer to it from time to time, but on the whole, I do hope that they have the support of spouse/family/friends/relatives, and little by little, they can put what’s been done to them behind them and move on.

4. Produce A Great Piece of Writing.

I have to say that I now have a new appreciation of letter-writing. I had my doubts about how the characters would come across simply through letters (I mean, you know… there are only so many ‘I’s’ you can take before you’re branded self-absorbed), but through incidents, you get to see what Juliet Ashton’s like, and I find myself ‘digging’ her character wholeheartedly. Who wouldn’t throw a bloody teapot (with tea in it) at a nosy reporter trying to get you to admit to a whole bunch of false allegations? Who wouldn’t throw your fiancée out on the street for emptying your bookshelves only so that he could display his trophy?

I can so relate to her matter-of-fact cheekiness. “I do have a telephone. It’s in Oakley Street under a pile of rubble that used to be my flat.” And her sense of child-rearing is refreshing. “I knew that all children were gruesome, but I don’t know whether I’m supposed to encourage them in it. I’m afraid to ask Sophie if Dead Bride is too morbid a game for a four-year-old. If she says yes, we’ll have to stop playing, and I don’t want to stop. I love Dead Bride.”

5. Have A Well-Rounded Conclusion.

Yes, it did, but… I guess this is where a third-person narration, with details, like other normal books, would benefit. You know, I find the male main character nothing out of the ordinary; to quote, he’s “quiet, capable, trustworthy… and he has a sense of humour… let him walk into  room, and everyone in it seems to breathe a little sigh of relief.” From little snippets here and there, you realise that he’s watching Juliet from afar, secretly in love with her. But I would like, no, LOVE, to be able to get into his head more, to know what he was thinking rather than reading everyone else’s observations, to know when, exactly, did he fall in love with Juliet, and why he is so reserved and never says anything (something happened when he was five, ten, twelve? His parents didn’t show affection, ever?). These little details would have provided a better lead-up to the conclusion, I guess.

6. Leave a long-lasting impact and/or drive me to pick up again for a re-read.

Having written my point in number 5, yes, perhaps I will pick it up again for a re-read sometime in the future, if only for no other reason than to pick apart every word Dawsey Adams (the male main character) has written to Juliet and try find any hidden meaning/feelings he may convey (goodness, I feel like Mrs Marple they referred to). It’s an easy read, not as heavy and topical as others I’ve read, but it’s still an enjoyable read.

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