Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some Books are Just Fun

Technology has done terrible things to my literacy skills. To start things off, it has turned my handwriting more abominable than it was before as well as ridiculously fatiguing. I sit down and write two thank-you notes after Christmas and then my hand is all tired and I have to take a break. "Whew... that was hard. Why can't I just type an email?" (See? It's even beginning to take a toll on my manners.)

To make things worse, technology has severely shortened my attention span. I used to be the one with a book always in my backpack or purse-- just in case I had a few minutes free somewhere and needed occupation. I was never without something to read. I was the nerdy kid in school who spent my breaks with my nose in a book. But now I read blogs. Fascinating as they are, they're just snippets. I jump from one to another on my reading list everyday, chuckle a little, don't have to think much, and away I go-- often unaffected by what I just read.

And then there's letter-writing. What happened it it? You know, paper, stamps, envelopes? You've heard of it? (Name that movie!) Who writes letters anymore? When was the last time I got an actual letter, just for me to read and enjoy from a dear friend? I don't write letters anymore, and no one writes them to me (notes, occasionally, are as close as it gets). We send back and forth short little emails, or worse, facebook comments. Nothing against these things, actually, I love them! It's fun and easy to have contact with all the far-away people in my life who I miss so much. But it just doesn't have the same appeal as a letter in the mail.

I know lots of people have lamented this development, as it's probably true for most people now. And really, I've made my peace with technology, and that mainly through necessity of addiction, I suppose.

I'm thinking about all these things because I just finished the most delicious book that I've read in a very long time. I didn't really mean to read this book-- I saw a poster for it at the library (the book club there is currently reading it) and happened to mention to the librarian that I had heard it was good and had been meaning to get my hands on a copy. "Why don't I order it for you?" she said, and she sat down to do it. I do love my small-town library.
"Um... okay." I said and then kicked myself because hey, I don't have time to read another book! I already have several in the works! What was I thinking? Why did I agree? And if the book club is reading it, and considering that I no longer trust the source I first heard of it from, it's probably actually just another piece of filthy modern fluff. I'm gonna regret this for sure...

...Or not. When it came in, I decided to give it a try, and I haven't been able to put it down. And then, quelle gasp (I totally just made that up to look all literary and stuff), my internet was down all day today. And I sat on the couch and read all day today. And I loved it and read right through to the end.

All right, all right, I'll get to it and tell you what it is already!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

This book is just so fun. It has a little of everything-- humor, tragedy, romance, history... Delicious.

It's an epistolary novel, meaning the entire thing is in the form of letters between the characters. I was dubious about this, having never read a book of this style before, but I found it very easy to read. The story flows along quite nicely (quite a difficult task for the authors in a book of this style, I'm sure!) and in fact, left me just hungry enough for more that my imagination was filling in the blanks as I read. It is delightfully well-written.

The story is about some people who lived through the German Occupation of the Channel Islands (between the coasts of England and France) during World War II, an event that I had never even heard of before (the occupation of said islands, not the war...). And being a product of a skeptical, anti-revisionist history family and education, I was feeling a little uneasy about possible propaganda that the book may contain. After reading it, I don't really think it did, although it is quite possible that it was too subtle for me to notice (I said I had that upbringing, not that I actually know anything...).

It was really amazing to me that a book of letters between so many different people could be so cohesive. But I felt like I really got to know the characters well and didn't have a feeling of missing out on actual description and dialog (the letters contained enough to satisfy). And the letters were just so fun! I had this feeling of getting a firsthand look at some very comfortable friendships. It made me long for letters like these! Oh, how fun it would be to write and receive such letters! Of course, I know they were all skillfully constructed by a talented author, but I was still left longing for such personal communication!

All this to say that this book was the most fun I've had reading an actual book in a very long time.


  1. I so agree. Write me I'll write you back. I love to read. Your points about blogging and FB are really true. Debbie was pointing out the other day that we are all a bit repetitive too. Hummm, so how can we kick it up a notch and write better blogs?

    Another good book where the story is all correspondence is "84 Charing Cross Road" by Helene Hanff. You can never have your nose in too many books. Maybe it is because we were near sighted children, I don't know; but I spent most of my days with my nose in a book as soon as I could read. I'm feeling a library trip coming on.

  2. The trouble is, *I* am terrible about writing letters, too! I wish I weren't but I'm really horrible about it now. I just always keep putting it off... It's really sad.

    Yeah, I recently saw that movie (with Anthony Hopkins) and it was quite delightful!