It’s one of the most enchanting novels I’ve ever read. Everything about it is endearing and charming and witty. I’ve read this a few times now and I always do it slowly so I can savour every moment of it.
I like that this is an epistolary novel because I think it adds to its overall charm. You see the rapport between the characters and reading things from each character’s point of view helped to develop the relationships in a way that would be trickier if it was just from the protagonist’s perspective.
I don’t want to say it’s a cute novel, I fear that Juliet would find that as insulting as the time Dawsey told her she was blessed with a “sunny nature and a light heart”, but the novel does has a very ‘Tea and Crumpets’ feel to it. I almost feel like someone’s going to start singing “God save the Queen” and someone will hand me a cup of Earl Grey, and it’ll all be undeniably sentimental, with prim and proper values and morals that belong in the era of Great Britannica but the historical references to the cruelties of German Occupation made the plot less syrupy than it could have been. Sharp phrases like this also steer it from being overly sweet:
I am reading the collected correspondence of Mrs Montagu. Do you know what that dismal woman wrote to Jane Carlyle? ‘My dear little Jane, everyone is born with a vocation, and yours is to write charming little notes.’ I hope Jane spat at her.
This was clearly written by someone with quite a bit of fight, one of my favourite characteristics in a person.
Also, Mary Ann has clearly moved with the times and assesses themes that affect every generation, so it doesn’t feel dated. Despite the appreciation for post-war Britain, there’s no blind nostalgia and the novel doesn’t laud the 40s as the ideal period. There are, quite frankly, very modern attitudes about homosexuality and marriage:
Am I too choosy? I don’t want to be married just for the sake of being married. I can’t think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse someone I can’t be silent with.
It’s delightfully refreshing.
The thing though, is that there is nothing revolutionary about the story and its elements. There is the:
- Gutsy, principle young woman that influences the lives of everyone around her, even the Protagonist.
- Precocious child that helps the Protagonist understand the Meaning of Life.
- Love triangle between the Veronica and the Betty.
- Quirky Friend who unites the lovers.
- Escape from the city life that helps the protagonist Move on from Traumas and accept that they are a part of life.
But it’s written so honestly with the author’s optimism and love of life and people shining through (including the celebration of all the joys and hardships), that it’s easy to love. There’s no rose-coloured glasses or bitterness.
It’s clearly written by an elderly British lady who lived during the First and Second World War; I loved every minute of it. It’s such a generous novel with so much detail but it still left me wanting to know more about Juliet and her life in Guernsey Island, which to me is a sign of a well-written story.
On another note…
I want to marry Dawsey (I’ve never crushed so hard on a fictional character before). I want to visit Guernsey Island and see the sun set over the island, just as Amelia did. I want to learn more about the German Occupation. And as much as I mocked it earlier, I want to have afternoon tea with Mary Ann, just so she could impart a lifetime of wisdom on me too.