I have always loved epistolary novels. It feels like your imagination is working harder, piecing together the story in your mind as you read letters from different peoples’ perspectives. Epistolary novels has its limitations and challenges, but when done right, it can have add a singularly beautiful touch in the story. Reading this story reminded me of my favorite epistolary novel, Daddy-Long-Legs. The book just radiates warmth and love.
The story is set in a time when London was picking itself up from the rubble of the war. This is the dark thread that weaves itself through the story, this very recently concluded World War II which left very deep scars in the national psyche. The story does not make light of the events of war. In fact, it’s very touching how the details were woven in, such as how people had to make do with rationing of food and clothes, the maddening threat of being bombed, the blackout curtains, the rubble, the separated families… The characters in the book are so endearing that you tend to feel deeply the loss they grappled with in their own private spaces.
I wish that the letters were more descriptive of Guernsey, but it was sufficient to paint an idyllic setting in my mind. The characters were memorable and colorful, and their personal stories about the war were heartrending. Because of the book, I read and learned more about the Island of Guernsey and the 5-year period of Nazi occupation. I learned about how many of their children were evacuated to London, and how some of them were not able to come home after the war.
I loved the story of how the book club started, and I am reminded that no matter how different people are, they can find kindred spirits if they find themselves among fellow readers. I find it heartwarming how the members of the society found comfort and solace in each other and, though not all of them started out as readers, they all discovered the joy of books and sharing ideas. I like that the book shows how much more tolerant people can be when their minds are open and willing to learn and listen.
I enjoyed the love story as well, but I appreciated that it’s not the focal point of the novel. I feel that I would be very much at home with the society, if it had been real.
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. It had me laughing and crying by turns. The wholesome, lighthearted humor interspersed with the very tender recollections of war was unforgettable. The story is a celebration of the human spirit, a reminder that even if there are many dark chapters in the story of the world, there are also good people that shine in such darkness, and that love and friendship can spring up in the most unexpected ways.