Mary Ann Shaffer very effectively manages to use an epistolary format (a series of letters) to tell her story of the time Germany occupied Guernsey island. The experience of Todt workers saddened me the most, these young boys were worked and starved to death - the strategy was to extract as much labour from them using minimal food resources. The Todt boys were allowed to forage for food on their own at night so that the German soldiers didn't have to waste too much of their own (again, limited) food on them. The islanders guarded their highly limited foodstocks against theft but one night as a Todt worker is stealing food he falls over and is too weak to get up again so two islanders harbour him and nurse him towards health leading to their imprisonment and worse...there was only one line I hated in the book, "Naturally curly is a curse, and don't ever let anyone tell you different." Ugly opinions like this have got a lot of women thinking they have to straighten their hair to look acceptable. I dislike all anti-curl propaganda, I love my Afro curls, they look cool, they feel great and they have far more character than boring straight hair and I'm not gonna let anyone tell me otherwise!
The writing of this book is ultra-English but written by an American. She portrays the German occupation of Guernsey through the Islanders' eyes and unlike most novels where the enemy is the enemy and you hate them, she also brings out the softer side of the Germans. In the last twelve months I have read several books on do with war or a restrictive political regime: Birdsong, The Book Thief and to some extent The Moment and I think this was the best, closely followed by The Book Thief.
The bad news is that the main author died shortly before or after the novel was published so we will not see anymore written by her; when she took ill her niece Annie Barrows, herself an author, took on the task of completing the piece. The good news? This is an excellent read both for the style and the content. Although it is fiction, it's based on real events and it comes off as being well researched and written in an easy to absorb format.
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