Saturday, March 6, 2010

Guernsey Inspiration and First Thoughts

"Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers."

When I began brainstorming for our first official post, my thoughts kept returning to the last book I read: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I know I told you at our last meeting, but I can't help but re-emphasize that you should definitely read this book! It's one of those books that you get lost in. The characters and landscapes are so vivid and rich, I wanted to meet them, to touch them. By the end, I wanted to make Guernsey my home and to make Juliet, Sidney, Dawsey, Amelia, and Isola my family.

In some way, I believe the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is much like our book club. The German occupation brought the members together, and though they come from different walks of life, they find a common connection and comfort in the books they read, and inevitably in one another. We may not have suffered through a war together, but we have already, in the last two years, survived tragedy, grad school (a kind of war, I guess) and disappointment. We have also experienced so much fun and excitement! And I find the same comfort in our friendship and our meetings. Okay, enough with the sap!

What I like most about the book is the connection between the characters and the books they read. While most books paint the characters through descriptions and others' perspectives, Shaffer and Barrows bring their characters to life literarily. An epistolary novel, Guernsey literally gives the characters voice through their witty letters. But the books that each member chooses to read reveals something significant about who they are. For example, Dawsey explains that he "feels a Kinship" to Charles Lamb and the connection later unfolds. And Isola is drawn to the eccentric, passionate, and clever Brontes.

So, I began to ruminate (don't you love this word? I like it almost as much as "healthful") on the quote above, a quote that epitomizes Guernsey. I do believe we are all drawn to certain books (or are the books really drawn to us?), and I think those books say something about who we are.

Heather T's favorite book is Anne of Green Gables, and she is such an Anne! Full of life, adventure, she still finds wonder in the simple things as well as the truly fantastic. Always an optimist and an encourager, Heather finds a way to make any bad situation better. She still believes in happy endings and the magic of imagination.

Heather P is very much a Jane Eyre. A strong, intellectual woman who has been underappreciated and mistreated, but who somehow always overcomes. She inspires and breaks boundaries. And even with such strenth, she is the most caring and gentle person I know.

Danielle is complex. And I have thought and thought about which book characterizes her. The only book I've ever heard her absoluteley rave about is Wuthering Heights, and I think this makes sense. I've never made it to the end of the novel (I know, I really should give it another shot!), so I'm basing this description roughly on what I know. Wuthering Heights and Danielle are unique, passionate, and at times, delightfully dark and creepy ( I mean this sincerely in a good way). Also, Danielle writes so beautifully and cleverly. In fact, I have often referred to her as my own contemporary Jane Austen. So, maybe Danielle is more like Northanger Abbey....Hmmm. Something to think about.

As for me, I'm just not sure. I would like to think I, too, was a Jane Austen novel. Cleverly challenging social norms with a biting sense of humor. However, one of my favorite books (so hard to choose) or at leat the first book with which I identified was a A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. What does this say about me? Tragic but hopeful, determined.... That I'm a weed who can grow out of the worst circumstances?

So, tell me what you think. Did I characterize you accurately? Which books do you think identify you? And which book characterizes me?

I'll end with one last quote from Guernsey author, Annie Barrows: "The wonderful thing about that they take us out of our time and place and transport us not just into the world of the story, but into the world of our fellow readers, who have stories of their own." I'm so glad I can be a part of your stories!