Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

In this sweet and sentimental book, in the format of letters, Juliet Ashton, an author in 1946 after the Second World War seeks an inspiration for a second book. She finds much more through a lost book found and a book club, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

'I no longer want to write this book--my head and my heart just aren't in it. Dear as Izzy Bickerstaff is--and was--to me, I don't want to write anything else under that name. I don't want to be considered a light-hearted journalist anymore. '(3)

'Am I too particular? I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.'(8)

'My name is Dawsey Adams, and I live on my farm in St. Martin's Parish on Guernsey, I know of you because I have an old book that once belonged to you--the Selected Essays of Elia, by an author whose name in real life was Charles Lamb. Your name and address were written inside the front cover.'(9)

'That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive--all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.'(12)

'I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers--booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one--the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it--along with first dibs on the new books.'(15)

'It was amazing to me then, and still is, that so many people who wander into bookshops don't really know what they're after--they only want to look around and hope to see a book that will strike their fancy. And then, being bright enough not to trust the publisher's blurb, they will ask the book clerk the three questions: (1) What is it about? (2) Have you read it? (3) Was it any good?'(16)

'We begun to meet--for the sake of the Commandant at first, and then for our own pleasure. None of us had experience with literary societies, so we made our own rules: we took turns speaking about the books we'd read. At the start, we tried to be calm and objective, but that soon fell away, and the purpose of the speakers was to goad the listeners into wanting to read the book themselves.'(51)

'Since there was scant butter, less flour, and no sugar to spare on Guernsey then, Will concocted a potato peel pie: mashed potatoes for filling, strained beets for sweetness, and potato peelings for crust. Will's recipes are usually dubious, but this one became a favorite.'(51)

'Quite apart from my interest in their interest in reading, I have fallen in love with two men: Eben Ramsey and Dawsey Adams. Clovis Fossey and John Booker, I like. I want Amelia Maugery to adopt me; and me, I want to adopt Isola Pribby. I will leave you to discern my feelings for Adelaide Addison (Miss) by reading her letters. The truth is, I am living more in Guernsey than I am in London at the moment...'(93)

'My greatest pleasure has been in resuming my evening walks along the cliff tops. The Channel is no longer in rolls of barbed wire, the view is unbroken by huge VERBOTEN signs. The mines are gone from our beaches, and I can walk when, where, and for as long as I like.'(105)

'Have you ever noticed that when your mind is awakened or drawn to someone new, that person's name suddenly pops up everywhere you go? My friend Sophie calls it coincidence, and Mr. Simpless, my parson friend, calls it Grace. He thinks that if one cares deeply about someone or something new one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and "fruitfulness" is drawn in.'(116)

'My guides are as various as the sights. Isola tells me about cursed pirated chests bound with bleached bones washing up on the beaches... Eben describes how things used to look... Dawsey says the least, but he takes me to see wonders...Then he stands back and lets me enjoy them as long as I want. He's the most un-hurrying person I've ever met.'(165)

'You really have to be Kit's height to see this world properly. She's grand at pointing out certain things I would otherwise miss--butterflies, spiders, flowers growing tiny and low to the ground--they're hard to see when you are faced with a blazing wall of fuchsias and bougainvillea.'(168)

'Didn't you ever notice how everyone you interviewed sooner or later talked about Elizabeth? Lord, Juliet, who painted Booker's portrait and saved his life and danced down the street with him? Who thought up the lie about the Literary Society--and then made it happen?'(201)

'Every biography should be written within a generation of it's subject's life, while he or she is still in living memory. Think of what I could have done for Anne Bronte if I'd been able to speak to her neighbors. Perhaps she really wasn't meek and melancholy--perhaps she had a screaming temper and dashed the crockery to the floor regularly once a week.'(228)