Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows

The originator of this book, Mary Ann Shaffer, from West Virginia became fascinated with the island of Guernsey when in London in 1980. She flew there and, while stranded by a fog, she found a book to read called Jersey Under the Jack-Boot. Years later, she decided to write a book about Guernsey under the jack-boot and its repercussions on the islanders' lives immediately after the war. Sadly, Mary Ann died in 2008 but before she did and knowing the book had been sold worldwide, she asked her niece, Annie Barrows to help her finish it. It's a light-hearted little confection, written in letter form, something that I normally find hard to digest. However, my irritation at the flurry of letters back and forth between the protagonist, Juliet, her publisher and the disparate group of islanders, who reminded me of some of the cast of Last of the Summer Wine, influenced my judgment only for a short while. I was soon captivated by the group of oddball but charming characters who verge on the caricature, though they don't go quite over the edge and in some ways it reminded me of Wodehouse; the Sunday Telegraph likened it to Nancy Mitford. When writer Juliet gets a letter from Dawsey Adams in Guernsey after the war because he owns a book that once belonged to her, it opens up a can of letters from some of the other islanders, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and quite why they adopted this bizarre title is made clear in the book so I won't spoil it. From them, she learns about their lives under the German Occupation and a tragic love story begins to emerge. Once she goes over there, her life changes forever. Somehow the author manages to balance the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis with a light-hearted insight into the human condition. And from under the froth emerges the theme  that there is good and bad in every group of people, whether nationality, race, religion or the residents of a small island. I keep falling upon this theme of how people behave in times of duress and novels about the second world war. It must be something in the air. You might be interested to know that Annie Barrows, whose background is in libraries, bookstores and publishing has authored the Ivy and Bean children's series and The Magic Half. Log onto http://www.anniebarrows.com/ if you would like to visit her. The book is published by Bloomsbury Publishing, who published the first book I ever wrote.

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