I finished listening to that Guernsey book and while I’m still not willing to forgive it its awful title, especially since the potato peel pie part of it is mentioned only once and could easily be dispensed with, I really did enjoy it all the way through. There are other things I’m having trouble forgiving the book for, including being a Pride and Prejudice tribute and updating. There’s no good reason someone’s tribute to Pride and Prejudice should irritate me except that everybody’s doing it these days, but that’s enough reason for me. Everybody’s writing tributes to that book, and I wish they would do something new and different instead. I also think the book goes out of its way at times to set up a cute scene and the plot machinations are too obvious.
But all that aside, my point here is that I really did like the book. It’s the kind of book that makes me confront the fact that in spite of priding myself on being cynical and blasé about heart-warming, feel-good novels, I’m susceptible to them. On the one hand, I really, genuinely don’t like them: they are unrealistic and emotionally manipulative. The characters tend to be too good to be true and the world they live in too simple. Things work out in a way they never do in life, and they encourage unrealistic expectations. On the other hand, if a book is as well-written as this one is, I can’t help but get caught up in the story, which is, as we all know, an intensely pleasurable experience. I found myself tearing up embarrassingly often as I was listening to the story unfold; it’s good I was alone in the car as I listened to it because otherwise I would have had good reason to be embarrassed.
In spite of the varied and conflicting emotions I felt as I listened to this book, I think I kept enough critical distance to be able to say that it’s well-done. It has a good mix of the serious with the lighter material; there was enough darkness because of the post-WWII setting to keep the book from feeling frivolous. The characters were well-drawn (although maybe a little too much on the quirky side now and then), and the epistolary form used well. I really do love epistolary novels, so that was a real pleasure. All-in-all, it was worth overlooking the title for.