I decided to do CBR10 because I have been sitting on a to be read pile of books for a few years because I was working so much that I never had time to read. Beginning in 2016 I had plenty of time to read but the pre-election craziness kept me busy reading news sites every chance that I got. The post-election craziness was even worse. I vowed to myself that I would restore some of my sanity and lower my blood pressure in 2018 by tackling my TBR pile and CBR10 would be my incentive to do so.
There has been much talk over the past 2 years about whether it is ok for people to take mental health breaks from politics and the news or if that is a luxury that we cannot afford in these dark Trumpian times. Maybe my white/cis/hetero self is over privileged but I need a break and though I do feel guilty about it sometimes, I am going to take time for myself.
I honestly don’t know when I purchased The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or why I chose it as my first book, but I couldn’t have picked a better one. I am generally not a fan of epistolatory novels, but this one really worked for me. The correspondence is between Juliet, a writer who made a name for herself writing comedy during WWII but is looking to find herself and her true voice in bomb ravaged London, and a group of eccentric villagers from the British channel island of Guernsey. Barrows and Shaffer do a great job of giving each correspondent a unique voice and keeping the story moving through short letters that vary in tone. If one letter tells a heartbreaking tale of life during WWII, you can count on the next to lighten the mood with some humor.
Had I read this book a few years ago when I purchased it, I may have been taken by the historical aspects of the story: life on an island completely cut off from the rest of the world during the German occupation of WWII, the small and large acts of heroism and dissent performed by ordinary people, or the daunting task or rebuilding communities and selves in the immediate aftermath of the war. I definitely would have been more engrossed in the how can they be so blind? moments of sweet love story.
In 2018, I was struck by how the letters tell the story of how a ragtag group of non-bookish people inadvertently create a literary society to avoid punishment for breaking the curfew enforced by the Nazis. The group soon finds solace in reading books and getting together to discuss them during the occupation. They weren’t burying their heads in the sand and ignoring reality. They were taking small amounts of time to immerse themselves in the worlds created in books to protect their precious sanity. They were surviving. The letters depict the sometimes messy relationships between the islanders and the occupying soldiers. When you are forced to live as neighbors with your enemies, lines can get blurred. No person is entirely good or entirely evil; even Nazis could be capable of kindness and love.
Maybe its ok if I escape to a world of fiction from time to time. And maybe its ok if I don’t disown those few relatives that threw away their votes because they “couldn’t bring themselves to vote for HRC or DJT.” If the Guernsey islanders could find some peace amid occupation and see the good in some of the original Nazis, then I guess I can take some time to read and review 13 books and not write off everyone that chose to ignore the growing power of the new Nazis.