by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – This is an epistolary novel, which means it’s told through a series of letters among the characters. The format works wonderfully for a novel like this, because it gives us looks inside the hearts and minds of all the major characters in their own words. The story is that of a British writer named Juliet who is gathering information on the Nazi occupation of the isle of Guernsey, just off the coast of England. Our story is set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, when all of Europe and England were starting to rebuild, when political prisoners were returning home, when the death tolls were not yet fully tallied. The residents credit a large part of their survival to a literary society they formed in a moment of desperate inspiration during the occupation, and Juliet is fascinated by their stories. She hopes to gather them and write a book that celebrates their experiences. To do this, she corresponds with them (and with her best friend and her agent) for several weeks before visiting them. It’s a visit that will change all of their lives in ways they could not have foreseen.
Funny, heartwarming, tragic, and life-affirming, this book is a gem. Very highly recommended. (finished 6/6/2012)