Guernsey (NOT the cow)

I do not normally enjoy epistolary fiction.

At my mother's suggestion, I gave The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer a go, and when I finished the book this weekend, was sad to have to say goodbye to the people I came to care quite a bit about. This story of a writer and her relationship with the people who lived in German-occupied Guernsey unfolds in the form of letters. And, like the letters written in 84 Charing Cross Road, I believe that these letters could have actually been written.

To me, good historical fiction tells the human side of history -- it gives a glimpse into how events in history might have affected the people - their reactions, heartaches and triumphs, motivation behind their actions, etc. And this book achieves this brilliantly. Just...just...read it. (Or listen to it -- it's a good cast of narrators. I confess that is how I was able to bypass my dislike of letters. I do intend to read it, too.)

Good historical fiction also prompts me to learn more about the place or time period...

Guernsey is real...
It is one of the Channel Islands, something I had not known before. The Bailiwick of Guernsey consists of six other inhabited islands, in addition to the island of Guernsey. Although Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom, it is a dependency of the British crown. The UK is constitutionally responsible for its defense and international representation.

...and it really was occupied during WWII.
And it was horrible for them. The BBC's Guernsey History page includes history of the occupation, including diaries, memories of liberation, and brief information about the involvement of the Red Cross.

Non-Jews from The Islands were sent to concentration camps
I'm not giving much of the book away by mentioning this, but I was surprised when a few of the characters' experiences in camps were revealed during the novel. Upwards of 2200 Channel Islanders were deported to German civilian camps, mainly Biberach and Wurzach, during the occupation.

There exists a Guernsey Society today
Although not started as a spur-of-the-moment aliby like the fictional society, The Guernsey Society holds regular meetings that are meant to keep the spirit of Guernsey alive.

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