The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (CBR9 #30)

Image result for the guernsey literary and potato peel

I have had this book on my to read list since CBR5 in 2013. This year I decided as part of my overall Cannonball goal of 78 books, that I was also going to work my way through my audiobook and owned book backlog. A little. With that goal in mind I set up a monthly goal list, with a book or two I already own, a book or two I have in audio form in Audible, and then I pick a couple more to take out from the library.

planner

In making up April’s goals, I came across The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in my Audible account and put it on the list. I promptly pushed it off the list to May and here we are. The fun thing about putting a book on your to read list five years ago and purchasing it two years ago means you often go into it completely forgetting why you added it in the first place. I mention this to say that I went in with zero expectations of what this book would be like, or what its format was.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel, made up of letters, telegrams, and notes created by the characters inside its pages. I am generally unsure about this style, although I’ve quite enjoyed Sorcery & Cecelia, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and Attachments (yes, that one counts). Which must have been why I decided to try it in audio with a full cast, since that approach has worked for me in the past. It worked this time. I will never know if it was the great narration or simply the beautiful language that pulled me in, but both are worth your time.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is structured around Juliet Ashton, an author who survived the Blitz in London, and her various relationships with old friends and new. The new friends are all on the isle of Guernsey, where one of her books ends up. Its new owner, Dawsey Adams, reaches out to Juliet for help in tracking down more books by the same author and the plot is off to a running start.

Cannonball Read’s own J Coppercorn mentioned to me on Twitter that this one reminded her in feeling to Anne of Green Gables, and I cannot disagree. It has the same unfolding feel of life on a country island. I also mentioned its similarities to Sorcery & Cecelia, but I’m leaning more towards Tall Pine Polka now that I’m done. In her only book, Mary Ann Shaffer balances between the realities of loss and suffering the island of Guernsey suffered during occupation in World War II, and the ramifications for her characters, but she also layers in the more lighthearted and humorous. That is one of the qualities I most appreciate about Lorna Landvik’s book.

Finished by her niece Annie Barrows after she passed, Mary Ann Shaffer is also working through what reading means to people in this book. So many of the members of the Literary Society were not readers before the alibi became a truth, that we as the reader (and likely word lover) get to experience the discovery of the solace, the enrichment, and the joy of books with these characters.

And for me, it doesn’t hurt a bit that there’s a little love story woven in as well. Get in now if you haven’t already, its currently being filmed and a movie version will hit theatres next year.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. 

Advertisements

The Count of Monte Cristo (CBR8 #76)

Image result for the count of monte cristo book

I have already said many words about The Count of Monte Cristo, since it entered our lives as the final of the four #CannonBookClub choices for 2016. It was a great idea I had, pick 6 books, three male authors and three female, all predating 1920 which had film adaptations, so we could honor our Pajiban roots, and I could easily check a Read Harder Task off the list (I needed to compare and contrast a book with its movie, you see).

Thank you, my fellow book clubbers, because I don’t think I would ever have willingly picked this one up. As it was, knowing my work schedule and family obligations (my sister got married!) I went abridged since I knew I wasn’t going to have as much time as this book probably really needed and deserved. I also had the back pocket win of my friend and yours, crystalclear having voted for this one and deciding to do her INTENSE and awe inspiring review as a backup.  

Here’s a secret for you: I really love the story that Dumas is trying to tell with Edmond Dantes. While the revenge plots are fun, interesting, and intricate they really aren’t why I continued reading past the Paris purgatory. While I was watching the 1975 Richard Chamberlin version, Abbe Faria says in a voice over “vengeance belongs to the Lord”, and that he hopes Edmond will turn away from his Arya-like list before it destroys him. This to me was the true heart of this work: what is the cost of forsaking that which matters in the world? The great emotional removal of the Count, his single focus on vengeance, is the destruction of Edmond. Villefort, in his decision to put his own position before the life of another dooms himself. Everyone is made to pay for their turning away from the moral right. Was the Count ethical in his actions, yes. Was he moral? I still don’t know.

This book is dense, and lush, and there is something for everyone. You can take a twirl through the discussion post, or visit other people’s reviews. I hope if you decided to tackle this one you review it, even if you don’t finish. I wasn’t kidding when I said there was plenty to unpack.

I have to say, that I have now read the book (abridged), and watched three movie versions of this story. I am convinced that the story in the book is the best, and that the closest version, which was truest to the overarching narrative, was the 1975 version. You know, in case you were wondering. 🙂

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (CBR7 #56)

I swear I thought I read this book, I have not. I really honestly and truly do not know how a story I know so well, with lines I quote all the time, could have snuck past me. I blame the movie. And the television show. And pop culture? I don’t know. But this has all been solved because now I have read it. Or Stephen Fry read it to me and it was delightful.

For anyone else who may have missed this one, here’s the basic idea. Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway (which itself becomes redundant almost immediately), our guy Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher from Betelgeuse 7 working on the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Ford has spent the last fifteen years on Earth posing as an out-of-work actor and become best friends with Arthur, who is already having a terrible day as his house is being demolished for a highway. Once they are off-planet their adventure only grows as they become looped up with a series of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox: the two-headed, three-armed president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot. All this while traveling through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”).

Makes sense, yes?

Douglas Adams is playing with the reader, layering in ideas and notions that are meant to make you think while simultaneously going for the laugh. The book is performing on several levels at the same time, and what you get out of it has much more to do with what you are willing to put into it. I chose to go the audiobook route for Hitchhiker’s Guide because its read by Stephen Fry. There may not be a more perfectly suited human to reading this words aloud. I have already purchased the next book in the series and foresee running through the whole series in the next few months.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

In the Heart of the Sea (CBR7 #54)

I was vaguely aware of the sinking of the whaleship Essex, and its role as the inspiration for Moby-Dick when I heard that there was going to be a movie* about it staring one of the many Marvel Chrises and that the movie was based on a book of the same name. In the Heart of the Sea is a book about 19th century history, sailing, oceans and a story of survival for some but not all? I was in.

In case you are similarly vague on the details, in 1820 the Essex sailed from Nantucket what was then a routine expedition for whales in the Pacific Ocean. Fifteen months later, in the watery desert of the South Pacific, it was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing the islands to the west, decided to make for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three twenty-five foot boats. During ninety days at sea under atrocious conditions, the survivors clung to life as starvation and dehydration began to take their tolls.

This seems a relatively straightforward story, and it is. But what Nathaniel Philbrick brings to the table in In the Heart of the Sea is the context of the actions and decisions of the men on the ship and the culture of the island that sent its men tens of thousands of miles away for years at a time to harvest the sperm whale from further and further reaches of the ocean. Using primary source documents and modern research a narrative of the full experience is brought to light for the modern reader. That in addition to the history of the whaling industry, of Nantucket Island, and of the suffering of the crew of the Essex are all bound together and make for both an interesting and edifying read that is powerfully engrossing.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

*based on the trailer alone it looks as though the movie has fictioned up the tale again, but it still looks breathtaking.