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Commentary on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

This review contains spoilers for the book, so please don’t read this until you’ve finished the book, if you plan on reading it.

This is a wonderful book. It is about a young female writer who goes on to discover a wonderful story of another person whom she will never get to meet. It is about enduring human strength in the face of pain and suffering during War.

The colourful cast of characters is one of my most favourite things about this book. Out of all the beautifully portrayed people, my favourite is Isola. She made me laugh so many times, and I love that when we first meet her, she was a “witch”. She’s the perfect anti-thesis to Adelaide Addison (another well-written character). Eben is my second favourite character. His letters make him sound like he’s full of wisdom. He is the type of person I would go to for advice.

All of the important characters felt real to me. Even though I knew that this is a work of fiction, the things that people wrote about in their letters felt real.

The story was also gripping. Before I knew enough about Elizabeth, I was already invested in Juliet’s story. I wanted to know more about this woman who apparently broke off an engagement to a man who later died in the war. I wanted to know why she’d broken off the engagement, so I kept reading… but once I got to know the islanders of Guernsey, the reason for Juliet’s broken engagement didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. I was enthralled by the mystery of what happened to Elizabeth and whether we would ever meet Elizabeth for ourselves through Juliet.

Even after we find out Juliet’s death through Remy, I still held out hope… I guess because Remy’s account was not an eyewitness account and perhaps Elizabeth was somehow rescued and the story of her execution was a lie. Honestly even after I’ve now finished the story, I still hope.

One of my favourite parts of the book is Eben’s first letter to Juliet. How he describes his thoughts when he saw the German soldiers landing. He thought “damn them, damn them, damn them.” I could completely relate the to the helplessness of that moment, as I personally find myself victim to such refrains in times of stress and helplessness. I loved it. It made Eben feel real to me. My heart went out to him.

The book made me laugh AND cry. I laughed out loud at Adelaide Addison’s letters. The ridiculousness of that woman. I was kind of hoping that Juliet would reply to her, but I guess Juliet is a better person than I am.

When we find out through Remy that Elizabeth was executed, I cried. I had to put down the book and go do something else. I couldn’t keep on reading. It’s not that I no longer wanted to read the book because Elizabeth was dead; I just felt like someone I cared deeply about had died and I needed a moment. I felt such loss for a beautiful person like Elizabeth. And then I felt sad for all those who came to trust in her survival. All the people Elizabeth touched and saved. It just felt like there was no justice. But I suppose that’s what the book is trying to tell us, right? That there is no justice in war. That people like Adelaide Addison and Billie Bee Jones should have survived the war but people like Elizabeth had died—no justice in a war at all. Even writing this out now is getting me sappy again for the loss of Elizabeth—a fictional character!

I can’t forget to mention another favourite thing though. The Love of Books so permeated this story. It was books that brought the Society together, sure, a lie about books, but a lie they made into a truth because of how wonderful they came to realise books actually were. When Eben wrote about how he might had felt better if he had the words from Shakespeare: “the bright day is done and we are for the dark,” that really got to me. Eben pointed out how reading a piece of literature gave him the ability to come to terms with things easier than he could have done before. For me that is how I feel about books, about reading. For that I love Eben’s character and I love the theme of this book.

There isn’t anything I actually dislike about the book. Even the one thing that I wish was different (that Elizabeth was alive) would have made this book not as endearing as it currently is. If Elizabeth was found alive, this book would somehow be less than what is now, which is a beautiful eulogy, a tribute, to people like Elizabeth.

Goodbye, Decade of Makeup

Here we are, on the cusp of another move. Lately I’ve been running a list off in my head about all the things that we will need to pack an organise.

Then today while I was filling a prescription and browsing the cosmetics section at the pharmacy, it occurred to me that I have an absurd collection of makeup that I never actually use anymore.

So one of the first things I did after returning home was to go through and toss it all in the bin, whatever I didn’t use. I was surprised that I had bags upon bags of old make up (10 years ago) that I’d taken with me in my travels. These bags had never been taken out after they were packed–simply because I never used them anymore.

When will I be using glittery eyeshadows and sparkly lip gloss (did I ever wear lip gloss?!). My regular makeup routine has been very plain in the last six years… simple eye shadow, some eyeliner and then maybe some lipstick if I can remember. I would go through stages of wearing makeup on a daily basis (if I was working in the office) to only wearing makeup when there was an event to attend (working from home days).

I was a little surprised at how detached I felt from the 20 eyeliner pencils I chucked into the bin. They were all collected in a ziplock bag and were definitely from when I still lived in Vancouver… what possessed me to bring them along with me across so many moves? I obviously felt a strong attachment to them before now to have brought them to two different countries I moved to. Yet when I pulled them out today I felt nothing but wonderment that I had owned this many eyeliner pencils at one point.

I feel like a very different person. I’m not sure if being a mother has finally “matured” me and that practical common sense everyone is always on about has finally taken root for me.

I did briefly glimpse the 23 year old me in that wrinkled bag of eyeliners. She was young. She was so very short sighted. Stubborn, headstrong. She flung herself into everything. She got in her own way. But damn it, she did it all while looking so awkwardly pretty.

Goodbye, You.

New Project

Short and sweet: I’ve been throwing around an idea of building a short story collection to be published. The central theme is Loneliness. The hope is that I can express my own fears well enough for others to feel less alone in their struggles with loneliness when they read (and identify with) my work.

Toe Hold On That Wagon

Yep, it happened. I fell off the daily writing wagon. I barely even managed to keep writing in my personal journal.

The past month has been fairly busy. I took a trip with Fin back to the family farm. That did disrupt our routine quite a bit.

I joined a book club. Now I have actual deadlines to finish books that I never have time for anymore.

Fin is now completely mobile. He crawls everywhere, pulls himself up on things and falls down a lot. I now literally do not have a free moment unless he’s asleep (where he is right now), and even then I have to keep a constant ear open for him being awake.

Only 9 months in and he’s no longer just my cuddly baby boy anymore. He’s constantly wanting to go outside, see people, DO things. He’s like his father. He’s bored of my homebody routines of laundry and house chores… he wants to explore the world and our apartment is too small for his curious mind.

An ex colleague–and a friend–has also offered me a job at my old company. I wasn’t sure I was going to take it because I wasn’t comfortable with putting Fin in daycare. This was three weeks ago, before Fin started to constantly go off by himself.

Now that he’s reveling in his new found freedom, I realise that daycare has its upsides. He’ll have a much bigger space there. He’ll have other kids and various people there to entertain him and help his development. He would be better off there than being stuck with just his momma all day long.

In an ideal world, we’d be close to a large support group of family and friends, with whom we could visit all the time. But we’re not. We’re here in a busy city, all by our lonesome and it’s time that I admit we need to make more friends. All three of us.

Daycare will only be three days out of a seven day week, anyway. And I don’t have to start until May… (option to work from home until then). I just don’t know how much work I can realistically get done at home when Fin’s yelling at me to take him outside.

Owning It

Yesterday was the first day that I didn’t write, at all. I didn’t write on my current projects. I didn’t write in my personal journal. I didn’t even study writing.

Going to be honest here, but how else will I learn if I’m not:

The main project I’m working on is in a stall right now because I’ve simply gotten bored of setting the story up. I’m at the part where the hero of my story is on her adventure, but before much action can take place, the world has to be set. There has to be motives that are laid out and subplots introduced. And for some reason writing this part of it really really bores me.

The other side project that I’m working on is stalled for a different reason: things are happening too fast. When I go back to read it, I feel that the narrator is rushing me, and I don’t get to know the characters well enough to care about what’s happening to them at all. So that’s not working out very well, which in turn makes me feel like this project is just going to shit and I don’t want to keep working on it.

I’ve considered uploading these projects to one of the writing groups I’ve joined, in the hopes that maybe someone who’s not in my head will be able to help me see a way around these two problems… but I’m also scared of the criticism they might receive. But right now that seems to be the only way out of this hole.

I even tried to tell myself that it’s okay–that I can just go back to working on the short story collection I’ve been meaning to put together… but that’s really just me making excuses not to tackle the problems with the main projects.

On another note, I’ve pledged to read 36 books for 2018 (three books a month). I’m on book 2 of the year right now so it looks like I’m on schedule. Though I did cheat with my 1st book because I actually started reading it when we were still in 2017… and I was 90% done with it before the New Year turned over.

Honesty is refreshing.