The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Burrows
Published by Random House, 2008
This wonderful historical novel is such a delight, such a treat to read, that I cannot recommend it highly enough. First suggested to me by a dear friend last year, I only recently grabbed the talking book edition with gusto. What an absolute delight to hear it spoken by someone who made each character come alive with such authenticity!
In 1946, in grim post-war London, author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a Mr Dawsey Adams and begins an extraordinary correspondence, which reveals the events of the German Occupation of Guernsey. The series of letters which follow as Juliet learns more and more about this extraordinary ‘book club’ and the lives of the Guernsey Islanders under the German rule draws both the reader and Juliet further and further into the Island’s experience.
After the runaway success of her most recent book, Juliet has been casting about without inspiration for a new subject and begins to feel that a book could be made from these collective experiences of the Guernsey people.
A visit to the Island to meet her new friends (all founding members of the Literary Society) including Dawsey, Amelia Maugery, Isola Pribby, Will Thisbee, Eban Ramsey as well as, most importantly, Kit McKenna turns into an extended stay in which Juliet becomes an accepted member of the Island’s unique society. Four year old Kit, ferret-loving, adorable and strong-minded, is the daughter of Elizabeth, the intelligent and resourceful woman who instigated the founding of the Society through her quick-wittedness in the face of German authority. Juliet soon comes to realise that her story of the Island’s occupation hinges on the exceptional woman whose presence – and absence- touched everyone’s lives.
With characters that strike as both charming and quirky and a plot continually full of surprises, this is a book not to miss.
Humour, pathos, romance and a fascinating insight into a little-known aspect of World War II combine to provide the reader with a glorious and memorable read.
You may like to visit the book’s webpage here and read an excerpt.
The Lost Library – A. M. Dean
Pan Books 2012
Reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Library is a global conspiracy thriller which sends Professor Emily Wess on a search for the Lost Library of Alexandria. Following the murder of her colleague Arno Holmstrand, Emily is delivered of cryptic messages and hurtles into a dangerous and dark puzzle-solving mission. Holmstrand was the last Keeper of the Library, which was not and never has been ‘lost’. Emily is revealed as the new Keeper and against all odds, defeats the Library’s age old nemesis, the Council – a group that desires all the power and political advantage the Library’s resources can give them.
While I found the constant ‘clock ticking’ signification of the time elapsing at a very fast pace, as Emily embarks on her international search, irritating – the book does move along with an urgency that adds to the tension.
You can find more about it here including a trailer and an excerpt.
The Other Queen (The Tudor Court Novels) – Phillipa Gregory
By coincidence, I had just watched the BBC mini-series of The Virgin Queen and realised how scanty my knowledge of Mary, Queen of Scots was, when I picked this one up from the library.
After escaping from Scotland ousted by her noblemen, Mary Queen of Scots lands in England, where her cousin, Elizabeth I, is on the throne, lured by the promise of sanctuary and help. Knowing she is under threat, particularly with her own kingdom in a state of flux, Elizabeth ‘detains’ her royal cousin and places her in the household of one of her most trusted nobles, Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot and his new wife, Bess. The recently married couple’s home becomes an ongoing prison for the young Scottish Queen and the centre of political intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth. The cost of keeping a royal court for the hapless Mary, as well as her seductive personality becomes a growing threat for the Talbots. Weeks turn into years as Elizabeth continually dangles the prospect of restoring Mary to her throne, and the Queen of Scots responds by intensifying her secret plotting, without regard to the danger to others, including her ‘hosts’.
As with all Phillipa Gregory’s novels, impeccably researched and beautifully written, this does not disappoint.