Thursday, January 21, 2010

Books in my life

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
[Bloomsbury; 248 pp.]

I had my sleeves rolled up, while we waded knee-deep among tomes in the stacks of a bookshop, marauding for books for the library of a private club. Dr R., as well-thumbed in his knowledge about books as a writer's thesaurus, casually added an intriguingly titled paperback to the steadily increasing heap of goodies on the floor. I could never resist an odd title, cover, or binding; so I picked it up, and bought a copy. What a lovely investment that was! Thirty percent off the Indian distributor's price; subsequently read by four people (and still in circulation!); so almost free for me!

Let me say straight away that this is another book about books; fictionalized, I agree, but with what a heady recipe—books and the love of reading, letters and the urge to write, WWII, good amongst evil, evil by itself, love for life, rebellion, goodness. Let me also say that one is reminded of the classic 84 Charing Cross [of which another time] while reading this, but there the resemblance ends. Despite mind-numbing ideology, despite merciless peer pressure, despite the repetitive madness that has overtaken the world over the millennia, there be hearts that beat to a different drummer—that people a civilization of goodness and fuel the only sanity there is.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  is a paean for those who stamp ownership rights inside a book, no sooner it is bought, by inscribing their name, and sometimes, address. It begins with a letter written to the owner of a book, from one who now owns it. Friendship blossoms through the mutual pleasure of reading. Stories are spun in real life and real time…and the work takes flight.

I read it in such a dappled daze that there is not a single pencilled remark or underlined passage that I could quote for you. But I can say this with complete conviction:

If you are a reader of books, and moreover, if you love books, this one takes your hand, leads you to your favorite sofa, tucks you in, warms your heart, and soars your spirit.

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