April 26, 2010

I've been reading, what have you been doing?

So, if I didn't make it clear in my previous post about reading, I love to read.  True story that one day I will be embarrassed that I wrote about--in junior high, I looked forward to summer vacation so I would have more time to read books of my own choosing, rather than those forced upon me.  Granted, much of this time was spent by the pool or at the beach working on my tan, but still.  Anyway, I recently read two books that I really wanted to write about it.  They are The History of Love and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend the rest of his life answering.”  As happens so often to me, I had picked up The History of Love numerous times in numerous book stores, only to replace it with another book.  Why?  I don't know.  A friend lent me the novel to read, and I immediately regretted not buying it for myself.  I don't often reread books, but I would read this one again and again.  The blurb on the back cover doesn't do much to explain the plot, which is probably one reason for my indecisiveness in purchasing the book.  It's basically two interwoven stories, one of a teenage girl named Alma who is desperately trying to connect with and please her mother, and the other of an elderly Holocaust survivor, known as Leo Gursky, living alone in Manhattan.  To make matters more interesting, the story itself revolves around a novel appropriately titled The History of Love.  The novel deals with the themes of love, loss, and longing; not only that, but the prose is beautifully written and constructed.  I can, without a doubt, say that this is one of my favorite books.  Ever.

As for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society--with a title like that, how can you not want to read this book?  What is Guernsey?  Why does its society deal with both literature and potato peel pies?  What, in fact, is a potato peel pie?  In short, you can find the answer to all of these questions by reading the book, which covers the occupation of the British Channel Islands during World War II.  (Long parenthetical: As I write, I realize that this is the second book in a row that I read dealing with World War II.  This is unintentional, although I do find the accounts of World War II interesting and horrid and disturbing and gripping. [A second aside: When I was younger, I misunderstood and thought this particular war was called "War War Two."  To me, this actually made sense; it must have been the second war, and to emphasize this fact, they used the word "war" twice.  I am pretty sure I learned the correct verbiage sometime before the 7th grade, when I had a nine-week study of the Second World War and the Holocaust in my rotation class.])

The plot progresses through a series of letters between a female newspaper journalist and the inhabitants of Guernsey, an island located in the English Channel.  The personal letters between the characters provide an intimicacy that seems as if you actually know the characters, and/or are eavesdropping on their private correspondence.  Those who live on Guernsey are basically prisoners of Hitler's troops who have overtaken the Island as a point of defense in the English Channel; the inhabitants are subjected to curfews and strict rules.  The only freedom they can find is in books, and in their discussions of said books.  Hence, the Guernsey Literary Society.  I'll let you read the book yourself to find out how potato peel pies fit into the story, but please take my word that you will enjoy this book.

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