Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cinderella with the Potato Peeler in Guernsey?

I friended Blechman on Facebook.  I got Jerry's phone number. 
Now:  I call, and I wait.

And read.  My mom’s rec:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  It's an epistolary novel - like Les Liaisons Dangereuses or Frankenstein, authors Shaffer and Barrows employ a compilation of fictional letters to move the narrative forward. 

So far: In January 1946, journalist Juliet Ashton, a.k.a. Izzy Bickerstaff, sets out into the English countryside on a book tour for her collected WWII humor columns.  Early on Juliet bemoans her inability to find Mr. Right, conveniently ignoring the fact that she's ably protected and coddled by her adoring publisher Sidney and pursued by dashing American newspaper tycoon Markham Renalds.  She charms all her folksy audiences with her sly wit and recklessly slapstick responses to perceived slights.  Meanwhile, a farmer in Guernsey finds an old book with Juliet's name in it and they strike up a correspondence about their shared love of its author, Charles Lamb.  Soon, Juliet gets an uber-lucrative new writing gig: produce an extended essay on the philosophical merits of reading.  She simply must bring farmer Dawsey and his rural literary society into her article... Man #3.  Chick lit. formula #27: too many men.

Empathy/Attention Steps:  Although the book's a breezy read so far, it's tough for me to build sympathy for this protagonist.  It's like a YA chic lit piece: Juliet's attractive, witty, charmingly unpredictable, and drooled over by just about every guy she meets, but she's still troubled by low self-esteem.  She doesn't notice the boy next door who is clearly her perfect match ('he completes her'). 
     So my empathy task is to consider that this formula works to sell books, and to attempt to find compassion for those who see themselves in Juliet.  They probably don't have the boy next door OR the popular dude OR the gorgeous bad boy as options, so living vicariously helps them get through the lonely days.  Or they're young yet and still hoping against hope that our world is a place where, without even trying, the quirky good girl attracts the good guy, that harmlessly-loyal-and-self-deprecating-yet-gently-funny genius who turns out to be the sexy, gorgeous Prince to carry her off into the Sunset on his White Steed. 
    But I'm not bitter.
    So how do I reconcile my disdain for the soul-destroying Cinderella story with my reading task? 

Curiosity Quick-Steps: How far is Guernsey from London or Bath, and what does it look like?  Did it figure prominently in WWII?  Who's Charles Lamb?  Will knowing about him unlock subtle allusions in this novel?

To Do's:
*  Research Charles Lamb, Guernsey, and literary societies during WWII - both here and in there.
*  Write a lonely spinster a letter. 
*  Deal with my Cinderella story issues.

Ta for now,

Hey! You!  What are you reading?  Are you taking another step?

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