Such a lovely little read. I would say it’s the best little nugget we’ve cracked open for a year (not difficult, considering that our literary diet consists mostly of Madeleine Brent and Elizabeth Peters) except that it was probably only as good as Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. In any case, we found it a very enjoyable cross-genre read. I would characterize it as a light tracery of romance over a very heavy background of World War II history, all very much in love with its settings and its cast of characters, and all expressed as a collage of letters, telegrams, and journal entries — a form of exposition that I could not have imagined being executed as gracefully as Schaffer (and Barrows) managed.
I had no idea that Guernsey was the setting for The Others — I’m a little sad that the film didn’t show more of its setting! It looks like an absolutely beautiful place. I would love to spend a week on these coasts. Some day…
I have only two slight complaints about the book: first, its conclusion feels abrupt; not that it rushes in arriving, but once it does arrive it is gone so quickly that I read into the Acknowledgments without realizing they weren’t part of the text itself. This may actually be an inverted form of praise: I simply wasn’t ready for the book to be done! It is also perhaps partly accounted for by the fact that the author, Mary Ann Shaffer, fell ill before finishing the manuscript; her niece, Annie Barrows, picked up where she left off and brought the book to completion. What a charming literary family they must be (and do notice, Annie is a bit of a hottie).
My second criticism is a bit more damning than the first, however. While some of the novel’s circumstances are extremely gritty and some of the text is appropriately hard to read, it did feel as though the warmth and cohesion of the protagonists occasionally escaped the feasible and became exaggerated. Some of the warm fuzzies simply felt a little… inauthentic. Isola Pribby, in particular, felt concocted and a little artificial, an idealized eccentric islander too sweet and kindly to exist in real life. I only had to use a little of my talent for suspending my disbelief — but, in a novel that was so otherwise pitch-perfect, it felt like a shame to me that I had to use that talent at all. Do note: I may be accused of cynicism. If you ever meet a real life Isola Pribby, please email me immediately and I shall promptly and with all haste amend my review.
Okay, now go read the book.