February 23, 2010
For those of you who’ve already read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, or if you’re looking for a more challenging read with thematic connections to Guernsey, be sure to check out the Master’s Book Club selections on our website. ( http://www.saratogareads.org/mastersbooks0910.cfm ) I read Corelli’s Mandolin this fall (challenging in many ways, but I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoyed Guernsey), and the similarities to Guernsey are striking – I was especially struck by the ability of the islanders in both cases to remain upbeat during and after their respective occupations.
Has anyone else read Corelli’s Mandolin, 84, Charing Cross Road, or another book with similarities to Guernsey?
February 21, 2010
The Daily Gazette featured an interesting article last week about two local women who grew up during WWII and had contact with girls in England during the war. After years of communicating via letter, both women ended up visiting their new friends in England, much like Juliet ends up visiting her new friends on Guernsey.
When I was in school, I remember my class writing letters to kids in far-off places, hoping that we would find pen pals of our own. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the outcome of these letters, and with the advent of email and other, faster means of communication, the letter-writing tradition is certainly fading.
Does anyone else remember having a pen pal growing up? (Or, like Juliet, as an adult?) Did you ever get to meet your pen pal?
February 4, 2010
Thoughts from Lauren Cohen, a member of Saratoga Reads’ Executive Board:
I’ve always been intrigued by books. They’re a final product – a signed, sealed and delivered pile of thoughts and ideas. I have a lot of thoughts and ideas – lots and lots of them. I can honestly say that very few of them ever leave the comfort of my muddled head. Sometimes I wonder if they could be something. I wonder if the stories, ideas and experience I have could be turned into a “work” – a product.
Guernsey, in particular, kind of allows us to see some of the heart and soul that goes into the process – both for Mary-Ann and Annie (the authors) and for Juliet (the main character). The afterword tells of Mary-Ann Shaffer’s illness and how her niece Annie Barrows took over and handled many of the manuscript changes. But she also talks about her husband, her daughters and two dear friends, Julia Poppy and Sara Loyster. Mary-Ann says Julia and Sara “demanded and beguiled and cajoled – and each read every word of the first five drafts.” Those are some good friends, huh?
Were Sara and Julia teasing out the story? Were they giving form and substance to a jumble of life’s experience? Were they just good listeners? Who do we need to help us achieve our goals?
In Guernsey, Juliet needs friends too. She has Sophie, she has Sidney. She finds the rest of what she needs on the island of Guernsey – from strangers. Dawsey, Isola, Amelia, Eben and the rest of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society give her a community in which she can bloom.
Annie Barrows, Mary-Ann’s niece and co-author of the Guernsey tells us a little bit about how she was able to turn her aunt’s manuscript into a publishable book. She says, “…her stories (Mary-Ann’s) were the wallpaper of my life, when just passing through the dining room would garner me an odd expression or an obscure fact, Mary Ann’s idea of narrative was becoming mine. In the same way that people acquire accents and politics from their surroundings, I acquired stories.” (p.286)
So sometimes we need friends. Sometimes we need family. Sometimes we need strangers. The accomplishments and products of our lives are born of these interactions.
January 25, 2010
Hopefully many of our regular blog readers are familiar with the Saratoga Reads! Pass the Book Program. For those of you who have not heard about it: Pass the Book is a program funded by Saratoga Reads through community grants. We purchase approximately 25 copies of the current year’s book selection, label them, and circulate the book copies in the community, with the hope that after a reader has read the book, they “pass” it to a friend, family member, coworker… anyone who might enjoy the book. Our goal is to reach more potential readers, generate discussion of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in forums outside of Saratoga Reads! events, and reach some readers who may not be familiar with Saratoga Reads!
An interesting tie-in to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:
Juliet first hears from Dawsey because he finds her name written in a book, Selected Essays of Elia, by Charles Lamb. Dawsey enjoys the book so much that he writes to Juliet – and his letter initiates much of the storyline of the book. Dawsey and Juliet’s story shows how people can forge strong bonds over shared reading experiences. Hopefully, the Pass the Book! Program will initiate discussion among the passers in the same way.
For more information regarding the Pass the Book! Program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to answer any questions you might have. While all the books for this year have been distributed, I maintain a list of potential readers (in case a current reader can’t find someone to “pass” to) – please let me know if you’re interested!!
January 19, 2010
Check out this user-created map of Guernsey from GoogleMaps. You’ll find quotes from the book relating to various sites around the island, as well as photos of each area. This map is also useful for readers to orient themselves on Guernsey while reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Based on these photos, does Guernsey look like you imagined it did while reading the book?
Many thanks to the google user “SubmarineGuernsey” for creating this map!
January 12, 2010
So we can all get a better feel for Juliet’s world, I’ve posted pictures of Oakley Street, the location of a flat which Juliet loved because she could see the river (page 12) and 23 Glebe Place, which is her residence at the beginning of the book. Juliet tells Dawsey that she had to move from Oakley Street because it was bombed in 1945. Notice how close the two addresses are from eachother! (81 Oakley Street is labeled on the “Bird’s-Eye View” picture as “A” and 23 Glebe Place as “B”.)
Thanks to googlemaps and streetview!
Oakley Street, Chelsea, London
23 Glebe Place, Chelsea, London
Bird’s-Eye View of Chelsea, London
March 12, 2008
“If nothing else, I hope these characters and their story shed some light on the sufferings and strength of the people of the Channel Islands during German Occupation. I hope, too, that my book will illuminate my belief that love of art–be it poetry, storytelling, painting, sculpture, or music–enables people to transcend any barrier man has yet devised”–Mary Ann Shaffer, December 2007 regarding her novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
In your opinion, did Shaffer succeed?