Author Topic: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows  (Read 81427 times)

BooksAdmin

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The Book Club Online is  the oldest  book club on the Internet, begun in 1996, open to everyone.  We offer cordial discussions of one book a month,  24/7 and  enjoy the company of readers from all over the world.  everyone is welcome to join in.
 
   

         

The year is 1946.  Juliet Aston, a writer looking for her next book subject, finds herself "gloomier than she ever was during the war."  Quite out of the blue she finds her subject, one  that will change her life, with the arrival of a letter from a member of a book club in Guernsey, a British Channel island occupied by the Nazis during the war.
Imagine a book club in a place where there is not a single book store! This is exactly what Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, Annie Barrows have done as they draw us into  the engaging relationship betweeen Juliet Aston and the  Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  Perhaps their story explains the popularity of book clubs everywhere.

Discussion Schedule:

Feb. 1-7   *Letters -- January 8, 1946 - March 1, 1946
Feb. 8-14    *Letters -- March 2, 1946 - May 13, 1946
Feb. 15-21   *Letters -- May 14, 1946 - July 15, 1946
Feb. 22-28     *Letters -- July 17, 1946 - Sept. 17, 1946
               

Topics for Discussion during Week 1

1. What did you learn about Juliet Ashton  from the exchange of letters? Is she real to you or a ficticious character?
2. What was it about Charles Lamb that attracted Dawsey Adams to his work? 
3. What part did Elizabeth McKenna play in the creation of the literary society? 
4. Why does Mrs. Maugery hesitate to have the Society participate  in Juliet's article on the society for the Times? 
    What do you think finally convinced her to approve of the interviews?
5. What do their reading choices reveal about the personalities of the members of the Society?  What do your own choices  reveal about you?
6. What did you learn about the German occupation of Guernsey in these pages?  How do you think the Islanders managed to survive the   occupaton for five years? 
7. "Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones."  Do you agree with Isola? Will you share  your favorite  references to books and reading in these pages?
8. What did you find especially meaningful in this first section; what surprised you, riled you, or tickled your fancy?


Related Links: Author's Biography; Visit Guernsey ;   A history of Guernsey during the German Occupation 1940 - 1941. ; Charles Lamb - Selected Essays

Discussion Leaders:  JoanP and Pedln

JoanP

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This week: Letters dated January 8, 1946 - March 1, 1946
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2009, 10:39:01 AM »

Here we go!!!
Many of you are ready to jump right in - others are busy reading the first group of letters.  Please keep an eye on the discussion schedule in the heading so that you don't give away anything that is revealed in later letters. 
This week we will be discussing what is found in the letters dated January 8, 1946 - March 1, 1946.
There is so much to talk about!  The book has  many  facets: the German occupation and how the inhabitants coped during the five years of occupation.  Above all,  it is a novel about books and reading!   It is also Juliet Ashton's story that is revealed through her letters.  Just where to start?

Let's begin with Juliet Ashton.  I'm very curious to hear what you think of her.  Is she real to you after reading her correspondence?  Could these letters have been written by actual people?  What sort of a person is she?  Is she the sort of person you would like for a friend?

It's never too late to join us - remember everyone is welcome!


pedln

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2009, 01:49:04 PM »
It’s finally come – Guernsey Day or is it Potato Peel Pie Day.

Yes, this is Juliet Ashton’s story, and I’m curious to hear what you think of her, too.  Joan asks, “Is she real to you?”  I want to know, does she reveal enough to you?  Do you feel you know her? 

Yes, it’s a novel about books and reading.  It’s also a novel about an historical period.  And it’s  a novel about relationships.  You’re no doubt already wondering who’re Susan and Sophie?  What is Sidney’s role?  And so much more.  So, on with the show.

Welcome everyone to SeniorLearn’s first book discussion.


CallieinOK

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2009, 07:44:18 PM »
February 1, 2009
Callie to Discussion Group


Dear Friends

Can't wait to begin visiting about Guernsey, Potato Peel Pie and London at war.  Oops, have I said too much?  Oh well, you know how I am - or, at least, some of you do. Smiling...

Callie

EvelynMC

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2009, 09:30:53 PM »
I'm posting now, because I am a sleepy head, and I know I'll be in late tomorrow.

I like Juliet Ashton.  I think she is very real, open and above board.  I like that she was a survivor, growing up and feisty.

She also makes me laugh.

Evelyn

bellamarie

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2009, 09:46:00 PM »
                  From Bellamarie to SeniorLearn Members of GLAPPPS
                                                                                          1st February, 2009
Mr., Ms. and Mrs. SeniorLearn GLAPPPS
Windsor Manor 
La Bouvee
St. Martin's, Guernsey

Oh my how exciting it is to finally begin to discuss this book.  JoanP I am glad you began your first questions asking about Juliet.  So without further ado, let the discussion begin.

To answer your question if Juliet is real, I must say I can't imagine her not being real.  After reading these letters I forgot the characters are fictitious.  She is truly the kind of person I would be friends with.  She is spunky like me, a writer as I am, loves humor which I couldn't live without.  Juliet draws people to her in a way that they are willing to trust her and share their personal thoughts with her without ever meeting her.  Juliet is like a prism to me, she has so many facets about her and each letter shows me a new color shining through.  Juliet is a loyal friend, but not to the fault of denying herself a chance at a new relationship with Mr. Reynolds.  I get the sense she is enjoying life and is not afraid to try new things.  Imagine not buying a dress in years.  She is truly not a vain person, yet she admits to liking the compliments she receives on her book tours.  Indeed I would love to be friends with Juliet.

As far as could these letters be written by actual people, I must say of course.  As I read the letters,  I have already begun to see every person as real.  I suppose that is what Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows intended when they wrote this book.

I anxiously await to read what all of you think about Juliet.
                                                                                         Sincerely,
                                                                                         Bellamarie

"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

kiwilady

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2009, 09:54:00 PM »
1. What did you learn about Juliet Ashton  from the exchange of letters? Is she real to you or a ficticious character?

Juliet Ashton is not like anyone I have ever met in real life. I have met one Upper Middle class woman who was only about 5 when the war began. Her recollections are of course different and therefore she is not like Juliet Ashton in her outlook on life. Juliet is of a generation before mine. I was born in 1949. However from what I have read in autobiographies and biographies she is a true representation of an Upper Middle Class woman of her time. What did I like about her? For one thing she is not condescending in her letters to the Guernsey Islanders. She was kind hearted. ( Gift of a book to Dawsey Adams) She is spirited. ( Threw Teapot at despicable journalist!) . She must have a typically British sense of humour. (her wartime colums later presented in a book which is rapidly becoming a best seller) I think I would probably like her if she were a real life person. I am sure there is more to learn about Juliet Ashton as we continue with our reading.

Janice

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2009, 10:34:00 PM »
I am sorry to say I have run out of possibilities for getting this book in time.  Sold out in bookstores around here, library has waiting list.  However I did get on the waiting list for large print at someone's suggestion here and am now number ten from number forty.  I will read the posts and join in when I can.

Gumtree

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2009, 11:16:07 PM »
? Is Juliet real to you or a fictitious character?

Initially Juliet is a fictitious character but as the story begins to develop one loses that sense as reality takes over and she becomes more real with each letter. She 'connects' with people - all sorts of people - which is a pretty good thing for a 'writer' to do.

Bellamarie
Quote
Imagine not buying a dress in years

This was partly due to wartime rationing and was a part of the minor inconveniences of war and the period of austerity which followed. New clothing was hard to come by even here in the antipodes. My mother had very few new clothes during the war - nor did I and most of what I did have were hand-me-downs from my cousin and I was  glad to get them. We were in good company as the then Royal Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret didn't have new clothes either - they were dressed in garments made from cut-down clothing rescued from the royal attics.

Reading is an art and the reader an artist. Holbrook Jackson

MarjV

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2009, 09:16:45 AM »
I've only read the first few letters; I find something to smile about in every one especially Juliet.

Yes, she sounds real to me and spirited as someone above posted.   I like people who say it like it is.

~Marj

PatH

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2009, 09:34:09 AM »
Clothing was still scarce for a while after the war, and still rationed.  Juliet says "new shoes are going to have to wait, since I spent almost a year's worth of clothing coupons on the dress"

PatH

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2009, 09:37:47 AM »
Juliet really came alive for me when, talking about her lack of success with men, she said: "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."

Annie

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2009, 10:27:51 AM »
I love all of these different comments.  I fell in love with Juliet and the book right from the beginning.  I have always enjoyed this format of using letters for all the prose in a book.  The one which came to mind first was, of course, Helen Hanf's book,  "84 Charing Cross" but I have seen others as plays and books.

There is delightful play whose title shall remain unknown (my memory leaves me now and then ;D) which used only two actors, man and woman, who are  corresponding throughout their entire lives.  Very well received back in the 80's.  Wasn't the movie, "Four Seasons" partially presented this way??

As I read along, I am also seeing the postmen running back and forth like mad hatters, as many of the letters are written on the same day.  Don't you wonder if they peeked into or wondered about all these letters coming to Juliet.  She is a winner,too.  I was so into the book that I am now looking up the authors that are mentioned to see what they have written.  I had never heard of Anne Bronte, just Emily and Charlotte, who were two of my favorites as I tottered into my teen years.

"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

Babi

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2009, 10:49:34 AM »
BELLEMARIE, I felt the same way; I kept forgetting the characters are fictitious. They are so believable!  And Juliet is such a open and honest person, one can't help liking her.

I am so pleased with the letter format.  Whatever happened to the art of letter writing?  Well, of course, the telephone, the typewriter, then the computer.  A pity, really, unless of course your handwriting is so poor it is inhumane to inflict it on your loved ones.

Letters are so revealing of personality.  And our author here is so good at nailing down a perfect  image .  Of her boss and long-time friend, when angry: ”Sidney’s brow would lower--his eyes would narrow--he would stalk. You know how nerve-racking it is when Sidney stalks.”



"I go to books and to nature as a bee goes to the flower, for a nectar that I can make into my own honey."  John Burroughs

bellamarie

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2009, 01:08:00 PM »
Babi , Thank you for pointing this out...."Letters are so revealing of personality.  And our author here is so good at nailing down a perfect  image .  Of her boss and long-time friend, when angry: ”Sidney’s brow would lower--his eyes would narrow--he would stalk. You know how nerve-racking it is when Sidney stalks.”

I loved how even though it annoyed Juliet that Sidney would ignore her for accepting a date with Markham, she persisted on writing to him to get him to respond.   I was so amused with how she described his reaction.  It made me laugh, because I visioned a spoiled little boy pouting because he did not get the attention all to himself. 

My husband is a mailman, has been for 36 yrs now.  I was discussing this book with him and some of Charles Lamb's letters an Jane Austen's Lady Susan.  I was telling him how they wrote back and forth so quickly, yet lived miles away and I could not imagine letter carriers delivering at the speed they wrote.  Of course back then I suppose they used many other forms of getting their correspondences such as friends traveling to the area etc.  But yes, I do have to giggle imaging the postman going to and fro thinking damn these people are busy little buggers.  We only get our mail delivered once a day so I'm trying to imagine how they were able to receive and answer each other so quickly.  hmmm Any ideas anyone?

As you all have heard the Post Office is requesting to go to a five day delivery since the volume of mail is down.  For certain letter writing and cards have decreased in volume due to the internet.  Why I speak with my family and friends near and far many times a day through instant messages, Facebook, and emails.  So I suppose the art of letter writing is fading.  Again..... I  LOVE JULIET up to this point.

I can only imagine how she felt when all her books were lost in the fire.  How precious to have a book collection and then to lose them. 

Gumtree...Thank you for reminding me of the ration on clothing.  I was born in 1952 and all throughout my childhood I rarely was lucky enough to own a "new dress".  I got most of my sisters' hand me downs or thrift store dresses.  We were a family of seven children (six girls me next to the youngest) so you can imagine there were plenty of hand me downs to warrant NO new ones for me.  We were very poor with no running water or inside toilet for many years, so even though I did not live through the great depression, I can truly relate to the life.  Oh how spoiled we are today.  tsk tsk
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

JoanP

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2009, 01:28:19 PM »
  A common thread running through all of your reasons for liking the character of Juliet Ashton is her sense of humor!  And as MarjV says, she likes people who say it like it is.
Do you think this is a universal response?  Or would some think her outspokenness is a little too much - like when she threw the teapot just missing the speaker's head for instance? 
Has our age mellowed us to forgive her lack of control?
 Would you have run around with Juliet if you were her age?
How old do you figure she is in 1946? I  was born in 1938 - and can remember getting two mail deliveries a day - right into the 50's, I  believe.

In an attempt to learn whether MaryAnn Shaffer actually visited Guernsey when she researched this book, I came across this interview with her niece, Annie Barrows.  If you Love Juliet Ashton, Bellamarie, I think you'd love  MA Shaffer -

 
Quote
"Mary Ann was, by far, the best storyteller in the family, but she was one of those people for whom starting was easy, but continuing was hard. Now there is a monument, this book, to how completely fun and entertaining and witty she was.

Danielle: Did you hear Mary Ann's voice coming out through the characters' voices when you were doing your rewrites?

Barrows: Oh, yes. The closest to her in tone is Juliet. I can hear pieces of stories I know, pieces of events I know, throughout the book...

Juliet is so Mary Ann, that sort of rueful voice, and yet, with a willingness to be delighted and to be fascinated by all of the people on Guernsey. That rueful tone is Mary Ann, and the engagement with books is Mary Ann."
Author interview with Annie Barrows

JudeS

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2009, 01:52:41 PM »
Juliet is a delight.  How not to like her?
Although I was a small child during WW2 my family received numerous letters from my 19 (yes nineteen) Aunts and Uncles who lived through the war in England.  Both my parents were English and came from very large families.Much was written about the rationing of food and clothes.

One thing that others may have not noticed , but for me opened a cascade of memories was on page 24...
"I took my golliwog off my bed and put her in the attic".

Now , for some reason I never had a doll.  I had games and books and Lincoln Logs, balls, a sled and roller skates-but not a doll.  Then my English relatives sent me a Golliwog . It was a He and not a her as Juliet writes about.  A Golliwog is a coal black rag doll with kinky black hair and a kind face. That doll also remained on my bed till I was grown. It kept my Teddy bear company and I made up many stories about his life in England.
So Juliet, thanks for the memory.

JudeS

bellamarie

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2009, 02:09:39 PM »
JoanP,   Thank you a hundred times over for finding this wonderful interview.  Just when I think I can't get more excited, I come and find yet one more piece to cherish and take from this book.  I could only hope to visit Soapstone one day and finish the books I have drafted.
Okay I must pull myself from this computer and go watch the Super Bowl.  Or at least get to my son's and play with my darling little grandson, while all the rest hoop and holler at the game.
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

pedln

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2009, 02:27:37 PM »
Jude, thank you so much for telling us what a golliwog is.  I think I've always pictured it as something like a frog.  Glad you cleared that up.

Bellamarie, we used to get mail twice a day.   I remember when staying long-term with an aunt and uncle in a small town that didn’t have home delivery.  Everyone went to the post office to pick up their mail.  They could always tell when the mail was in by listening to the train whistles.

JoanP, I believe Mary Ann Shaffer did visit Guernsey, though just how successful her was, I don’t know.  This is from the Author’s Biography, up in the heading.

Quote
She became interested in Guernsey while visiting London in 1976. On a whim, she decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there when a thick fog descended and all boats and planes were forbidden to leave the island. As she waited for the fog to lift, warming herself by the heat of the hand-dryer in the men's restroom, she read all the books in the Guernsey airport bookstore, including Jersey under the Jack-Boot. Thus began her fascination with the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.

How old is Juliet?  On page 17, in a letter to Sidney, telling him about new dress and hairdo, she says, “I no longer look a listless, bedraggled thirty-two-year-old,  I look a lively, dashing .  .  .  thirty.”

And I just now found (refound) a line I’ve been looking for for days – page. 14 at the bottom, where Juliet has asked Sidney to find info on Mark Reynolds.  And she says, “I don’t know whether to feel flattered or hunted.”   What do you think?

I love the letter format.  It reminds me in some way of a short story – in the sense that in just a few words, or a few pages, we are told so much.  And here we have quickly learned that this charming young woman, in spite of the hardships brought on by war, has become a successful writer, that she has been friends with the Stark family since her school days, she’s loyal to her friends and has a keen interest in other people.

JoanK

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2009, 02:57:02 PM »
I remember not having new clothes during the war (in the US). Wearing hand-me-downs from much older cousins.

I'm a minority of one, reacting to Juliet. I feel a little reserved from her. I get a feeling that she has spent too much time with "literary" people. When she starts getting letters from people in Guernsey, it's like a breath of fresh air. Maybe she needs them more than they need her.

mabel1015j

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2009, 04:00:11 PM »
So much to talk about...............first of all, i love that on this site we can scroll down and be reminded of what was said and by whom without losing our "reply."

I lived in a small town in Pennsylvania and we got 2 mail deliveries a day until the mid-1950's. We had the same mailman for as long as i could remember. I nice certainty in my life, and a nice man whom everyone knew by name and that he would be showing up at about 10am and about 2 pm.

I like the character Juliet, but i'm not sure i would be too happy being friends w/ a person who would throw a teapot at somebody. I grew up in a very stoic family and someone that "out of control"  would have been a little too threatening to me. I also find her too well-adjusted considering how hectic her young life was. Altho i guess upper-class European children accept that they are going to be sent to boarding school - but i still think it must be very hard on their psychological well-being.

I like thinking about the daily living situations that were so different because of the war. We were very lucky in the States to not have the trauma that the Europeans lived thru.........it's rather astonishing that they recovered- first emotionally and then in all the other aspects of living and having gov'ts and economies running - so quickly...............i know it was well into the 50's for real recovery, but that is still "quickly"  to me, that a decade or so after having lives and society so disrupted that things were operating almost "normally."

My first aha was on page 15 ( letter of 23rd January to Sidney) where Juliet speaks about the woman she met at a book signing whose dgt had had no contact w/ groups of boys - no dances, teas, flirting. Uummmm. That consequence of war had never crossed my mind and why would mtg groups of boys be scary? What did she know about boys? What had she been told about boys? Can we even begin to understand that?

On page 16 she speaks about how people "enter" bookstores..............I seldom buy books, so when i go to a bookstore i'm there for something in particular, but at the library??..............I wander about and love wandering about, looking for a book that "will strike (my) fancy."

Yes, i too wondered what a gooliwog was, thanks for the explanation.

Enough for now, will return later to see your additional comments............jean


EvelynMC

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2009, 04:33:04 PM »
I was not quite four when the war started and eight when it was over.

I never had any new clothes either.  Hand me downs or homemade.  I also can remember shoe rationing.  My feet kept growing and I remember my mother despairing of having enough coupons for shoes.  We had sugar, butter and meat rationing too, but I was young and really don't remember very much of it. 

Maryemm who is in England, once posted in the Classics area, the allotment of food for each person over there during the war and the first few years after.  It was a real eye opener.  We had it so much better here in the States.  They were really deprived. 

I can never remember having mail delivery twice a day.  We were in a rural area, perhaps that's why.


MarjV

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2009, 04:50:48 PM »
I love reading this book so much that I don't want to read it for fear I will finish it too soon.   When I read a fiction that really draws me in I hate to finish - I feel lost afterwards.

Love how the characters are revealing themselves as the letters progress.

Posted comments are great!

~Marj

ps - wish I had bought the book - so many sentences that I'd love to underlione and comment upon.

kiwilady

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2009, 05:06:50 PM »
Even here in NZ, where farming is a big part of our economy, my mother said there were many items rationed. I know they looked forward to the American boys ( who spent much time at my grandparents home) bringing things like ham, butter and cream with them. My grandmother cooked and baked for the boys and kept an open home for the Servicemen. Fabrics were also rationed and even after the war ( my mother married in 1946) there was trouble getting fabric for her wedding gown. I believe one of her clients  ( She was a hairdresser and beauty therapist in a top Auckland Salon) gave her the fabric for her gown as a wedding present.

2. What was it about Charles Lamb that attracted Dawsey Adams to his work? 

Dawsey mentions he perceived a great sadness in Lambs life. (Did Dawsey have a great sadness I wonder?) Then he mentions the Essay on the Roast Pig. The Essay made him laugh because of the debacle with the Roast Pig and the formation of the Literary society. If it had not been for the Germans catching all of them out after curfew when they had been dining on forbidden roast pig; Dawsey would in all probability never bought the second hand copy of Lambs essays. He may never have heard of Lamb if it had not been for the illicit consumption of the Roast pig.

I have read all of the Brontes works. My favorite author was Charlotte. I recently read "Shirley" the only one of their works I had not tackled. I first read "Jane Eyre" when I was 9 or 10. My mother allowed me to read adult books from the time I was 6 figuring out a lot would go over my head. I read "Jane Eyre" several times. As a teenager. in my twenties and then just a few years ago. I think I have read all their works at least twice except for "Shirley" I like British literature which is not surprising as I was brought up in a country mainly settled by British migrants.

Carolyn


PatH

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2009, 09:51:45 PM »
I don't know what mail service was like in England in 1946, but I had first hand experience of it in 1958.  Bob and I spent 3 weeks there in August, 1958. Being rather spontaneous types, we would travel around with a general overall plan, and only figure out in the middle of the day where we would be likely to spend the night.  We would pick somewhere to stay out of a guidebook and call them up to see if they had a room.  The first time we did this, they said, "Just mail us a confirmation and we'll hold the room"  "But it's already lunchtime, and the reservation is for tonight, it'll never work"  "Oh, yes it will".  And it did work, although the village was 10-20 miles away from where we were.  We did that a number of times, and it always worked.  I understand mail isn't that good anymore.

bellamarie

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #25 on: February 02, 2009, 12:09:57 AM »
Thank you all for sharing your experiences with your mail deliveries growing up. 

mabel1015j..."On page 16 she speaks about how people "enter" bookstores..............I seldom buy books, so when i go to a bookstore i'm there for something in particular, but at the library??..............I wander about and love wandering about, looking for a book that "will strike (my) fancy."

I spend hours browsing in book stores, sometimes just waiting to find that book that jumps out to me.  It is one of my favorite things to do. Yet rarely if ever do I visit my local library.   I agree with what Juliet says on pg. 16 "It was amazing to me then, and still is, that so many people who wander into bookshops don't really know what they're after--they only want to look around and hope to see a book that will strike their fancy."

I like what Christopher Morley  said in his essay, "IOn Visiting Bookshops I"It is a curious thing that so many people only go into a bookshop when they happen to need some particular book. Do they never drop in for a little innocent carouse and refreshment? There are some knightly souls who even go so far as to make their visits to bookshops a kind of chivalrous errantry at large. They go in not because they need any certain volume, but because they feel that there may be some book that needs them. Some wistful, little forgotten sheaf of loveliness, long pining away on an upper shelf—why not ride up, fling her across your charger (or your charge account), and gallop away. Be a little knightly, you book-lovers!"

I also liked Christopher Morley's essay, The Haunted Bookshop, he says about not advertising, "My dear chap, I understand the value of advertising. But in my own case it would be futile. I am not a dealer in merchandise but a specialist in adjusting the book to the human need. Between ourselves, there is no such thing, abstractly, as a `good' book. A book is `good' only when it meets some human hunger or refutes some human error. A book that is good for me would very likely be punk for you. My pleasure is to prescribe books for such patients as drop in here and are willing to tell me their symptoms. Some people have let their reading faculties decay so that all I can do is hold a post mortem on them. But most are still open to treatment. There is no one so grateful as the man to whom you have given just the book his soul needed and he never knew it. No advertisement on earth is as potent as a grateful customer."

I am a person who MUST own any book I read.  I don't mind buying it on Amazon used, because so many times, I, like Juliet have side bars of notes or highlighted sentences or quotes so I can find them quickly when I want to refer back to it.
Although, after reading about the dark librarian fellow, I feel I may be missing out on something by not frequenting my local library.   :-[
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

mabel1015j

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #26 on: February 02, 2009, 01:36:20 AM »
I might feel like Christopher Morley does about bookstores if i had a cozy, friendly little shop to go to, but all we have around here for the last 2 decades are BnN and Borders, altho everyone at Borders is very nice and helpful, i hope they don't go away, but still it's a merchandise mart to me, not a nice place to go. I will buy books when i have come across one that i want to underline and comment in, or keep and re-read. Usually those are non-fiction books, altho i have bought fiction books, especially ones that i am reading for a f2f book group. I just don't have the money or the space for all the books i want to read - or take a chance on. And for 45 yrs i have told my students, my children and everyone that "the library is the best thing since the Gutenberg printing press. You can find out anything you want to know AND ITS FREE!" 
1
Isola makes two interesting comments about men in her 19th February letter.....In the third paragraph she says "men are more interesting in books than they are in real life." I must say, i have to agree w/ that statement in general. I think women writers write male characters that they would like and men write male characters in the way they think men should be, or the way they perceive them. And i find that men often are very different in their relationships w/ women than they are in their relationships w/ men. When my husband read "The Notebook" by Nicholas Sparks, he said " that's a woman author, a man wouldn't have written that book. All the women like the book because the (lead character- i've forgotten his name)  is the man that every woman hopes will come into her life. " ..................................And in the second half of the letter she says "I have a parrot in my keeping too - her name is Zenobia and she doesn't like men."  That got me thinking that every time i've heard someone say some animal doesn't like______ - it's always "men." Has anyone had the same. or different experience? I also wondered if those are clues to something else we may find out about Isola at a later time.

Juliet says her encyclopedia says that Guernsey  is 'roughly seven miles long and five miles wide, w/ a population of 42,000 inhabitants.' I was surprised at that, it was a much bigger population on a much smaller island than i was imagining. A bit more crowded than i thought.

jean

Steph

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #27 on: February 02, 2009, 07:54:40 AM »
I dont have the book yet. Sigh.. But I am reading all of your entrees and it all sounds wonderful. So I will keep it up until the book arrives.
Stephanie and assorted corgi

JoanP

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #28 on: February 02, 2009, 08:49:56 AM »
Good morning, book lovers everywhere! 

Did you see that Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow - 6 more weeks to huddle inside with our books without feeling guilty about the garden...

Steph, Janice, please stay with us until your books catch up with you!  There is so much here to read in the meantime.  I've spent nearly an hour marvelling over the observations, the quotes, chasing down references.  Thank you all so much for your contributions - they are making this discussion so much more than we could have hoped for!

The book is turning out to be  more than about love and the war  and Guernsey - it is about booklovers, books - and the contents therein.  Wonderful to see what is happening here - inspiring you all to pick up books that would not have occurred before this conversation.
Ann, you will be interested to know that the youngest of the Bronte sisters, Anne, wrote two novels -  Agnes Grey and Wildfell Hall - both available to read online - and I checked our local library and both are still on the shelves.  Who knew?

Yesterday we focused on Juliet and whether MA Shaffer has succeeded in portraying a believable character through these letters.

Quote
Love how the characters are revealing themselves as the letters progress.  MarjV.
It is helpful to know that some of us have not quite warmed up to Juliet yet.   It will be interesting to hear from you, JoanK and Jean,to learn if you change your mind about her as her letters reveal more about her personality - OR if Juliet herself changes with her association with the Guernsey literary society.

Need coffee, back in a few minutes.  More questions for you this morning.


JoanP

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #29 on: February 02, 2009, 09:25:31 AM »
So, Juliet is a 32 year old, career girl, a writer, in search of a project.  Would she  be considered a spinster - or were there many young unmarried women in London following the war?     She exhibits a sense of humor, and doesn't seem at all desparate to find a man.  She is more focused on finding the right topic for her next book.

There was a fiance - I'll be honest, I did not find him believable.  I think MA Shaffer erred in this portrayal on one glaring detail.  It's the day before her wedding.  She packs away half of her beloved  collection of books, even puts her "golliwog" away, giving him plenty of space for his belongings.   I'd understand that she would be quite unhappy to find that he cleared away ALL of her books to make room for his stuff.  But for his athletic trophies?  I have four sons, and not a one of them even wants to take his trophies out of my basement.  This detail made him and unbelievable character to me - and reminded me that this was fiction, after all.
What I did appreciate was the irony of the incident.  Her books were all lost when the bomb struck!

Thank you so much for your "golliwog" memories.  I never had one, I never even heard of them - Where was I?  I looked them up, hoping I would recognize one if I saw him/her -

Never saw one.  Thought it odd to find this golliwog in London - but read in this
  history of the golliwog that they were a favorite toy in London  - among little girls and little boys too.
There was even a popular
  "Golliwog Gone" song     Maybe you can hear it? You have to scroll down and  click the  first set of musical notes .  It's about a little boy whose dolly is taken away from him - for "unknown reasons."  Sounds like a pacifier...

Oh dear, all out of time - wanted to comment on your posts concerning the tough economic situation post-war.  We Americans experienced something so different.  I never gave much thought to the fact that times were so bad in London - that 'rationing was more stringent after the war than during the war."
Juliet writes that everything is so gloomy, gloomier than after the war.  Everything broken, roads, buildings and especially the people."
If she's writing about conditions in London, can you imagine what it was like on post-war Guernsey? 
And yet, the Guernsians are interested in books...Charles Lamb. 

Shall we focus our attention on the little island (only 7 miles long!) - and  on Dawsey Adam's first letter to Juliet today - and how she responded?






Babi

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #30 on: February 02, 2009, 10:35:44 AM »
 "..she was one of those people for whom starting was easy, but continuing was hard."
 Joan, I knew someone like that. She would start many books in her mind, and discuss the stories with me in detail.  But she couldn't write...couldn't even spell, actually.  I tried to help her with a couple by taking her notes and typing them up into a readable form, but it didn't work. 
 On men and their trophies, some seem to be like your sons, very casual about the whole thing. Others, tho',  seem to regard their trophies as evidence of their viriliy, or something.  I believed this guy wanted everything on display; I just found it hard to believe Juliet hadn't suspected what a drip this guy was before that.
 You asked about comparisons of postward London and Guernsey. I think it must have been much worse in London than in Guernsey. Guernsey wasn't bombed into rubble. London had to have been a very depressing place, with years of work staring them in the face to clean up and rebuild.
  I have been impressed with the way the authors convey what London was really like after the war, in just a few words planted here and there.  Like when Juliet was persuaded to buy a new dress: “I felt like a traitor to crown and country; no decent woman has new clothes----”. 

 Wasn’t that a lovely scene where Juliet is attacked after one of her tour talks by the man for using the name of ‘The true Isaac Bickerstaff’?  And a woman in the audience jumps up and shows what an ass he is, because there never was a real Isaac Bickerstaff. It was a pseudonym for Joseph Addison.  I didn’t know that myself, and what a fun way to learn it!
And didn’t you like this? : “…booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one -- the margin of profit is too small.  So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that mkes them do it --along with first dibs on the new books.'

"I go to books and to nature as a bee goes to the flower, for a nectar that I can make into my own honey."  John Burroughs

pedln

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #31 on: February 02, 2009, 10:49:29 AM »
Golliwog Cake Walk!!!!!   Oh my gosh, I think I still have the sheet music to that –

ba bop ba bop bop
bop bop ba bop

It sounds a little different, here.   :-[

So Guernsey the island is about 25-35 square miles.  According to the Wikipedia article, it has grown a bit since 1946 – population now approx. 65,000, but not an incredible amount over the past 60 years.       Wiki article

I’m so glad the book includes a map, and looking at the letters, it seems that most of our folk so far, Dawsey, Amelia, Isola, live in St. Martin’s parish, which is about 3 sq miles in area, and today has a population of about 6 thousand.  I’m not sure where Eben lives.  It’s only when Juliet first writes someone that we get their address.

But right now, our friends apparently must live close enough to walk.  (Have just watched the first two parts of Island at War, and the Germans have confiscated all vehicles, and they are banned for local people.)

Jean, it seems everyone is involved is farming of some sort and/or raising animals.  Maybe that’s why we thought Guernsey was  bigger.

Quote
I just found it hard to believe Juliet hadn't suspected what a drip this guy was before that.
from Babi

Babi, I don't know if he was a drip or not, but I was surprised, too, they hadn't discovered these things about each other.  And didn't Juliet wonder, what had they talked about.

Have to run a bit, but back later to hear your thoughts about Dawsey.  I like  him already.


bellamarie

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2009, 11:01:32 AM »
1. What did you learn about Juliet Ashton  from the exchange of letters? Is she real to you or a fictitious character?

As I have stated prior, to me Juliet is real.  She is very amusing, caring, loyal, unselfish, intelligent, loves books and a risk taker.  So far, the most important thing I have learned about Juliet through the exchange of her letters is that she is an honest person.  When she was willing to have Bella Taunton give a character reference to Mrs. Maugery it showed she was willing to be fair and honest, because she knew she did not especially hold high esteem in Lady Bella Taunton's eyes.  Would you be willing  to take such a risk, of allowing someone you know may not give a good reference to someone else about yourself?  That was a calculated risk Juliet took, and a very good way to win Mrs. Maugery's trust.

2. What was it about Charles Lamb that attracted Dawsey Adams to his work?

Dawsey says on pg. 9, "For all his bright and turning mind, I think Mr. Lamb must have had a great sadness in his life.  Charles Lamb made me laugh during the German Occupation, especially when he wrote about the roast pig.  The Gurensey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society came into being because of a roast pig we had to keep secret from the German soldiers, so I feel a kinship to Mr. Lamb."

I see Dawsey being able to relate to Mr. Lamb, in the sense they have both experienced sad times, yet were able to get through them with a bit of humor.  As we know through Lamb's Essays, he lived through witnessing his own sister take the life of his mother, due to a mental breakdown.  Sad times I dare say.

 "I never would have made it if I could not have laughed.  It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable."
-Viktor Frankl, re:surviving the Nazi death camps


Juliet and Charles Lamb along with many others were able to survive and help others with their humor in such unbearable times.

3. What part did Elizabeth McKenna play in the creation of the literary society?
As Amelia stated on pg.49, "..our dear Elizabeth McKenna, who manufactured the story on the spot, bless her quick wits and silver tongue."

Can you imagine, Elizabeth a small lady as described, stepping up and concocting a lie to the German soldiers, knowing she was taking a risk of being jailed?   
 
4. Why does Mrs. Maugery hesitate to have the Society participate  in Juliet's article on the society for the Times?

pg.  38  Mrs. Maugery says, "I realize that our name, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, is an unusual one and could easily be subjected to ridicule.  Would you assure me you will not be tempted to do so?  The Society members are very dear to me, and I do not wish them to be perceived as objects of fun by your readers."

Since Mrs. Maugery  states a friend of hers had sent her a copy of Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War,  and while she found the book informative as it was entertaining and amusing, she was concerned about "the amusing tone."  Amelia did not want Juliet to use their Society for fodder to her readers.
 
What do you think finally convinced her to approve of the interviews?

I believe the references from Bella Taunton and Rev. Simon Simples is what convinced Amelia to trust Juliet.  Although, Juliet was a tad offended by her suspicions, she understood, and complied to honor her request to prove her worthiness.  I feel this allowed Amelia to trust Juliet with their Society.

I have to say in typing Simon Simples, I had to giggle, because I am imagining Mary Anne thinking up names for her characters in this book, and deciding on this name.  For me if I turn it around it reminds me of the riddle, Simple Simon meet a pie man...... Some more of Mary Anne/Juliet's humor peeking through.  :)
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

JoanP

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #33 on: February 02, 2009, 11:45:42 AM »
Quote
I see Dawsey being able to relate to Mr. Lamb, in the sense they have both experienced sad times, yet were able to get through them with a bit of humor.
Oh goodness, Bellamarie, you have covered the whole week's discussion in one post! I promise to focus fully on your responses to later questions. 
But  let's  slow down a wee bit and consider what you have to say about Adam Dawsey.  In his  first letter we are introduced to both Charles Lamb's essay on roast pig - and a hint that the book club owed its beginnings to a roasted pig.  Does it mention here that Dawsey is/was a pig farmer himself? 

Have you all had a chance to read Lamb's Dissertation Upon Roast Pig?  I was interested in the part of the essay that spoke to the innocence, the purity of the newborn piglets.  I was struck by the parallel to the members of the Guernsey literary society, new to literature for the most part, pure and honest in their response, unaided by teachers, critics...

How did Juliet respond to this letter...in which she is reminded of her old copy of Lamb's essays?  I can't help but think of her own frustration at the moment with writing more of Izzy Bickerstaff....humorous stories she wrote  during the war that helped Londoners cope with hard times. 

kiwilady

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #34 on: February 02, 2009, 12:13:45 PM »
The very best bookshops to frequent are second hand bookshops. They are owned by genuine book lovers. Many a great discussion is held at the cash desk while you are paying for the book you have chosen. Second hand book store owners leave you alone to browse but are more than willing to help if you need it. I don't buy books any more. I would not have room to store all the books I read and the cost of books in NZ currency is prohibitive on my budget.

We have two major chains of bookstores here. One of them has a mail order department and it is there that you can get the best assistance. The genuine book lovers seem to work in this department. At the stores the assistants are nothing more than cashiers. Most of them I doubt read books at all.

Carolyn

FlaJean

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #35 on: February 02, 2009, 12:39:20 PM »
I still haven't received my book but am enjoying the comments.

bellamarie

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #36 on: February 02, 2009, 01:08:24 PM »
Sorry, JoanP, I guess I did get a bit ahead of myself and others.  I will try to restrain myself.  I woke up this morning with much vim & vigor. 

Kiwilady, I so agree with you. I visited a neat little hidden second hand book store when on vacation in Marblehead (a quaint, nautical, lakeside town, surrounded by islands.)   As I walked in, the smell of dusty, old bindings and pages was overwhelming.  I didn't know where to begin searching.  My hubby saw the gleam in my eyes, walked out, and sat on the front porch swing, and patiently waited.  He knew it would be a while.
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

kiwilady

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #37 on: February 02, 2009, 01:10:39 PM »
I have to be honest about the Lamb Essay on the Roast Pig. I found it repugnant. However I am a rabid animal lover.

Carolyn

JudeS

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #38 on: February 02, 2009, 01:59:32 PM »
JoanP,
Thank you  for that picture of the little girl with the Golliwog.  I looked like that little girl with blonde curls and my Golliwog looked just like the one in the picture.  Wow!

Now for some literary trivia as related to this discussion .
I have always loved the quote by Cicero:
"A room without books is like a body without a soul".

In the Wikipedia article on Cicero (106BC-43BC) you will find that much of Cicero's writing is in the form of letters to his friend Atticus.
Cicero , who was Roman, introduced the art of fine letter writing to European  culture.
So Seneca, who many of you have mentioned, had a predecessor to learn from since he was born some 40 years after Cicero's death.
If anyone is interested there is a great site of quotes on Google .  Just put in the name Cicero  and then choose Quotes from among the many listed suggestions.

Jude

JoanR

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Re: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - by Shaffer & Barrows
« Reply #39 on: February 02, 2009, 05:06:42 PM »
I'm with you, Kiwilady, re: the essay on roast pig.  I am totally repelled at the notion of roasting suckling pig!  I have to forgive Lamb for that essay since I like the rest of his work so much.  After all, he was a man of his time.  I don't want to compare the Guernsey book club folks to pigs either!!!  HoHo.

It's amazing, isn't it, that there was room for farms and so many people on such a little island!  The farms must have been really small, just enough to sustain a family.  There were probably not very many cars - bikes would have been used a lot.

If I remember correctly, marmalade from Scotland used to have a Golliwog on it's label.  Gollies often accompanied teddy bears in the nursery.  Since I'm a "bear person", I bought a Golly whilst in England - he was in an antique market and was missing one eye.  Now my one-eyed Golly has lots of bears to keep him company ( I believe they were always male) plus a couple more gollies that I made.

2nd-hand bookshops are disappearing at an alarming rate so if there is an out-of-print book you are looking for, the public library will spring into action and request it from a network if it's not in their catalog.  Libraries are great for browsing in, too. I swear I couldn't live without our library even though I have a ton of books of my own and there is Amazon on-line and a B&N a few miles away.  Not that having worked in our library for twenty some years (and retired for another 20 years) makes me a tad prejudiced!!! Laugh, laugh. (How does one chuckle in print?)

I do really like Juliet - she seems so real and just the sort of person you would want as a friend.