The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Everyone was sickly from so little nourishment and bleak from wondering if it would ever end. We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.

World War II has passed. Juliet, a writer in London, is in need of an idea for her next book. Perhaps the key to what she needs can be found with a hodgepodge of book club members on the island of Guernsey in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by authors Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

So. Did I read this book on account of the recent release of its corresponding film? Yes. And no.

It wasn’t the film that brought the novel’s existence to my attention. A copy of the novel had been sitting on my bookshelf for years. Once the film released, I was intrigued enough by the looks of it to want to watch it. But not before I read the book.

First things first, you know.

Having also read The Book Thief earlier this year, this is the second novel I’ve recently read with the intertwined themes of the blessing of literature and the horror of WWII. Also, being a writer myself, I love running across novels and movies about writers.

Now, I didn’t fall in love with this book. Admittedly, stories told by way of characters’ written correspondence isn’t the easiest sell for me. Though it allows for some nifty plot development, it does make me feel as if I’m reading bits “about” a story instead of reading the story itself, and my interest flowed in and out during the mishmash of bits here. While I admired Juliet during a moment involving a gift of wood, I didn’t exactly come to feel more than calm indifference for her altogether. I tend not to love a story if I’m not all that into the main character.

Even so, some of the cleverness, irony, and quirky characterizations in the novel reminded me of reading L.M. Montgomery’s writing, with which I’ve had an…interesting relationship, over the years. And the bibliophile in me could still recognize why many others do love this book.

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Note to my blog readers: this novel contains a minimal amount of profanity.

 

The Chosen (1981)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Chosen (1981) from Chosen Film Company
Rated PG. (Contains some disturbing Holocaust footage.) Drama, Faith Theme, Historical

Description (from the film case): Set in 1940s Brooklyn, The Chosen is the story of two teenage boys who become best friends despite huge differences in their upbringing. Danny (Robby Benson) is the son of an orthodox Hasidic Rabbi (Rod Steiger). Reuven (Barry Miller) comes from a progressive Jewish family whose father (Maximilian Schell) stands at the forefront of the battle for Israeli statehood. Danny’s every moment is devoted to religious study, while Reuven plays jazz piano and is intensely interested in changing the world around him. Their family differences soon force both to make difficult choices.

My thoughts: A film based on one of my all-time favorite books.

Although politics are a passionate part of the story, I don’t like it for the politics. (You know, sometimes I almost hate to use the word, for its connotations. It can be easy to minimize or brush off a complex and crucial human issue by saying it’s “just politics.”)

Anyhow. I like this story for the way it portrays how there are differences within groups, behind the broad labels. “I thought you people only studied Talmud.” You people. One Jewish young man speaking to another.

I like this story for its reflection of fathers and sons. Of friendship. “It is not easy to be a friend.” Especially when your friend is someone you don’t understand.

Reuven has an appropriate level of understatement, Danny has an appropriate level of strangeness. Now, what hit me as the most powerful scene in the book didn’t need as severe a close-up as the film generously gives it. But it still has its own power onscreen, and I can otherwise forgive the moment’s over-generosity for being a product of 1980s filmmaking.

A compelling coming-of-age story indeed.

My corresponding reading: The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

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I’m not a super-fan of the trailer, but, hey. Maybe it’s also “1980s forgivable.” 🙂

 

Prague: My Long Journey Home by Charles Ota Heller

Memoir Books 3

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Online Book Club provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

prague

Prague: My Long Journey Home: A Memoir of Survival, Denial, and Redemption by Charles Ota Heller

Autobiography/Memoir

Here’s an account that is at once informative, layered, heartrending, and inspiring.

The author, originally from Czechoslovakia, tells a story of World War II, the Holocaust, and immigration to the United States from his perspective. I must say, one point among many that I found interesting was the author’s comparison of the treatment of Jewish people in the occupied country he left to the treatment of people of color in the U.S.

I’d recommend this memoir to readers of biographies and narrative nonfiction, but more broadly, I believe that anyone who values remembering and learning from history can appreciate this book.

Reviewed at OnlineBookClub.org with 4 out of 4 stars. Do take a look.

 

Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Publishers for an honest review.

Four Silver Stars

Feast for ThievesFeast for Thieves: A Rowdy Slater Novel by Marcus Brotherton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“And if you don’t last the year…I’ll hunt you down and crush you with the full weight of the law. But–” he cleared his throat, “belly chains and leg irons seem like an awful waste of a man with your potential for success.”

Thus, young World War II veteran, Rowdy Slater, is faced with the choice of either going to jail for bank robbery or serving one year as a town minister in author Marcus Brotherton’s novel, Feast for Thieves.

Rowdy is a down-to-earth, flawed protagonist one can sympathize, even empathize, with, as he says what he thinks in unpretentious English, and perhaps he wouldn’t have found himself on the wrong side of the law here in Cut Eye, Texas if it’d been easier for him, and other men like him, to earn a living after the war. His first sermon in church had me cracking up, and I never would’ve imagined myself saying this before, but, man, I enjoyed the bar fights!

Of course, not all of the violence in the novel is fun and games, not by a long shot, and a certain, dire secret of Rowdy’s just about made my whole heart ache. Now, my interest in his story occasionally waned as he’d take a lot of time getting around to the point or importance of a scene, and his pattern of expression became redundant here and there. I was also a little puzzled at his late reference to a “fisherman from Nazareth,” as I wondered if he actually meant a carpenter or a craftsman.

Still, it’s a rather gritty and relatable depiction of a changing man, with an ending more than open enough to call for a continuation. I wouldn’t mind reading more about Rowdy Slater, and I think other fans of historical fiction with grit and faith wouldn’t mind it, either.