Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Minutes of Meeting of June 22, 2009

We met at Shirley's home June 22 and fell in love with her new kitchen! In attendance were Shirley, Linda, Colette, Janet, Jolene, and Colette's guest Jane (who had originally suggested the book under discussion). We all enjoyed Mary Ann Shaffer's and Annie Barrows' book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Shirley served, among other treats, potato hors d'oeuvres, pork nibblies, and meringue desserts, all featured in the book.

Sergeant-at-arms Jolene brought the evening to order using a hammer (see p.48 of the book), and Colette followed up with background information on the authors and on 18th-century essayist Charles Lamb, whose literature was the reason the fictitious correspondence between the Dawsey and Juliet characters began in the first place. Colette noted that Mary Ann Shaffer had gone to Guernsey on a whim in 1976 and developed an interest in the fact that the Channel Islands had been occupied during the war. Ms. Shaffer unfortunately died a few months before her work was finished, and her niece Annie Barrows, an accomplished author in her own right, helped complete and polish the work and get it to print.

Everyone loved the style of the book and found it ironic that the author originally thought it would be easier to write a series of letters than a regular narrative. She discovered that to develop characters and keep each of their voices consistent were no small feats, but she was successful. The humourous description of people like Adelaide ("a woman too good for daily wear" p.125) and of chickens "with razor lips and back-to-back eyeballs" (p. 127) were all appreciated. Janet commented from personal experience that the postal system in England, at least in the late 80's and early 90's, was exceptional, and people wrote letters because telephoning was expensive. Others appreciated the fact that the history of the Channel Islands and the war were included as a backdrop to the story and that the premise of the book was a club not unlike Muse and Views in many ways, where books seem to have a "homing instinct, bringing them to perfect readers." (p.10) The happy ending meant Linda didn't have to give us an assignment to write an alternative!

To those who were away, we missed you. Of particular interest is the fact that our usual blogger Michèle is on a road tour and has even visited Stanley Park, a famous site in one of our recent book choices. As well, Beth sent regrets but suggested 84 Charring Cross Road as a suitable summer read, with an epistolary theme similar to tonight's book.

Enjoy your summer. See you back at Muse Sept. 28 at Colette's for discussion of Lisa See's Snowflower and the Secret Fan. Happy reading, Jolene

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