In early 1946, author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a man on Guernsey, who happens to own a book that was previously hers. They strike up a correspondence, and through that she learns about the German occupation of Guernsey during the war and the titular Society. Intrigued, Juliet wonders if this might be the subject for her next book.
Told entirely through letters, we get to know the characters and fall in love with them as Juliet does. There’s Dawsey, who has Juliet’s old book. A shy, quiet man, he has a love of literature that Juliet appreciates. Isola, an eccentric lady who makes her own ‘tonics’; Amelia and Eben…and each letter includes a tale or two about the enigmatic Elizabeth. A woman who started the Society out of necessity and who draws all the others together.
Juliet ends up heading to Guernsey to meet them all and, perhaps, fall in love for real.
I had seen the Netflix adaptation of this fairly recently and enjoyed it very much. I don’t think it was what I was expecting, although what that was I couldn’t say. But it was lovely and charming and everyone was great in it and I’d recommend it if you haven’t seen it. I also heartily recommend this book. I think writing through letters is incredibly difficult, because while it enables you to get a great sense of those writing them it really limits what the reader can see and experience. But the authors did an excellent job of navigating this, both through the variety of letter writers there are and through a slight cheat at the end where it’s a notebook that does the talking. I think it counts. And it works. The characters are all beautifully realised and I quickly cared for all of them. Having seen the film I knew what had happened to Elizabeth, but that didn’t dampen my enjoyment at all. And I liked the changes they had made from book to movie, it meant that there was enough I hadn’t seen to not be bored or unsurprised by it.
Definitely a little treasure of a book and a nice one to start wrapping up my year of reading with. I might fit in one more though, who knows?