The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

I listened to this book on cd and I highly recommend doing that because of the different letters and voices. I honestly just grabbed this book because I had seen it before but I had no idea what it really was about and I was pleasantly surprised. I love WWII fiction but I don’t read a lot of post-war fiction that reflects back on the past. This story focuses on the channel islands that were occupied by the Germans during the war. I never knew this happened and much like the main character, we as the reader learn as she does.

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This story is written in the form of letters from several different characters which is why I recommend listening to it. The two characters you are introduced to at first are Juliet Ashton and her friend Sydney Stark who doubles as her publisher. They have been exchanging letters back and forth for years, especially focusing on Juliet’s novel she wrote based on a column she wrote during the war. One day Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams who happened to find a book with her name and address written in the front and he wishes to know if she knew of anymore books by Charles Lamb that she wouldn’t mind recommending. This began a long correspondent in which the two became friends and Juliet decided she needed to write about the island Guernsey during the war and it’s occupation. Along the way Juliet is courted by a potential rival publisher, falls in love with a bright young child, and finds her inspiration for her novel.

This is truly a wonderfully interesting story about WWII and most specifically the island of Guernsey and how life was during the occupation. I love reading books written in letter form because they are so personal and so interesting because you get the personal voice of every character, in a much more intimate way then you would from just regular narration. The epistolary style also fits the time period of this book so well. It’s very different then anything I have read about WWII because everything I read focused on the Holocaust and this doesn’t. There is so much more to WWII than just the Holocaust and sometimes that gets overlooked so it’s important to find literature that discusses other aspects of WWII.

-A

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Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

I’ve been taking a multi-ethnic literature course this semester and it’s put me in contact with a lot of books I would have never read otherwise. I have never heard of the book Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts¬†but I did enjoy it surprisingly. I say surprisingly because this isn’t your typical style book and I would call it post-modern because it really isn’t her memoir but rather the stories of women in her life who shaped who she was.

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I read an article for the class that described Kingston’s novel as a forgiving style in which daughters write the story from the perspective of the mother to forgive them. I found this to be intriguing because throughout the memoir you don’t really get from the author that her and her mother had a great relationship. Kingston’s parents were born and raised in China but Kingston was born and raised in America and throughout the book you see that clash of culture and I think Kingston was trying to explain that.

The first section of her book focuses on her unnamed aunt who committed suicide in China when it was discovered she was pregnant and it wasn’t her husband’s child. Kingston doesn’t know exactly what happened because the version she gives that her mother told her is dark and a warning not to get pregnant outside of marriage. Kingston theorizes throughout her narrative, but her main goal was to give her aunt a voice and then throughout the rest of the narrative she gives her mother a voice, her other aunt and herself.

This is not a traditional memoir and it raises a lot of interesting questions about what Kingston was trying to do. I watched an interview with Kingston in which she said she wanted to write a book for Chinese women and a book for Chinese men which is why she wrote China Men.¬†She purposely split the two genders into two different books because she wanted one specific novel for each. I loved this book not only for it’s style but the language as well. Kingston writes in such a way that you can understand why her mother does the stuff she does and I do think Kingston is forgiving her mother.

-A