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a novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows,  published in 2008 by the Dial Press.

This delightful little novel is set in England and the island of Guernsey right after WWII.

The principal protagonist is an author who, at the start, is in the midst of a book tour promoting a book she has just published collecting humorous and inspiring columns she wrote for a paper during the War and having trouble getting into her next book.  That setting is quickly supplanted due to a letter she receives from a resident of Guernsey.

Guernsey and the other channel islands are not far off the coast of France and were occupied by Germany shortly after Dunkirk.  The Society of the title was formed during war as part of coping with the occupation.  It and the people who formed it captivate the protagonist and she promptly passes on the pertinent evidence and captivates us.   At the time of the story, England and the channel islands are still trying to rebuild their lives following the war.   Our protagonist wants to write about this for her next book.  We don't get her book, but we get a variety of letters as she learns about the island and the occupation.

The whole novel is structured as a collection of letters by different people.  I admit: this structure is one that normally does not hold me.  An exception that only lasted a prologue was Dorothy Sayers' introduction to Busman's Honeymoon.  The letters were from a variety of characters, written in appropriate styles, and let the reader pull together the picture.  This book is similarly delightful.  Most of the letters are from the principal protagonist, but she is joined by a cast of varied supporting characters.  The letters are witty and amusing in spots.  "Amusing" is not appropriate for all of the spots; those letters are appropriately written.  "Witty" is not appropriate for all of the writers; those letters are appropriately written.

I am not spoiler-sensitive*, myself, but I find it hard to say a lot more without adding spoilers.  The book is a delight to read.  The people we meet are varied and skillfully painted.  Life progresses, perhaps with a few coincidences, but who wants to read about the same-old, same-old?  There is laughter and tears, behavior sturdy and superficial, romance unrequited and fulfilled.  You'll meet several people you'll be glad you did.   As I write, the NY Times has it as 18.

Edit: Mary Ann Shaffer wrote the book, but became ill before the final editing was complete. Her niece finished the book. Shaffer died in Feb. 2008.

*My feeling is that most good books are a good re-read; obviously spoilers aren't a factor then.
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countrycousin: Lego me (Default)

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