The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer

A book club of sorts in the occupied Channel Islands island of Guernsey during the Second World War is at the heart of this novel. It is an easy and heart-warming read that would be perfect to take on your holidays.

Everyone I know who has read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has loved it- some have even said they slowed down their reading because they did not want to get to the end of the novel. So I came to it with raised expectations and, as is almost the case when that happens, I was a little let down. Don’t get me wrong: this is a nicely written novel that is easy to read. It uses the device of letters to bring the story of a group of individuals in occupied Guernsey to the central character – writer, Juliet Ashton. It is heart warming, sometimes funny and it tells an interesting tale. But with my previous experience of war literature – albeit first world war – coming from Pat Barker’s excellent Regeneration trilogy, from Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way and from Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong – perhaps I expected too much. This is definitely a lighter read. Interestingly, notes at the end of my copy explain that the novel was completed by the author’s niece. I don’t know if that makes a difference but I did think there was a change and that the end of the novel was maybe a little too light. But I am nit picking. Sometimes light is good, sometimes it’s exactly what we need. So if you are thinking about buying this novel, don’t let me put you off. I did find it an enjoyable read and it would be a lovely book to take on holiday.

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker comprises three novels — Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road — set during the first world war.

The novels are about the WWI experiences of poets Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and a fictional third character, Billy Prior.

Pat Barker sensitively explores the mental health problems caused by the horrors of war. All three characters in these novels spend time in Craiglockhard, a Military hospital, under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr Rivers. The telling of their stories is human, moving and absolutely compelling. If you have been scared off by the subject matter, or perhaps like me, thought you were not a reader of war fiction, I encourage you to reconsider. This is perhaps the most powerful series I have ever read. I thoroughly recommend it.

If you like Pat Barker’s fiction, you might also like Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and Sebastian Barry’s novel A Long, Long Way

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I must start by confessing that The Red Tent by Anita Diamant was a book club choice which I might never have come across left to my own devices

Essentially The Red Tent is about women and menstuation and it is set in Biblical times.

I believe that there is nothing new under the sun and so I can easily accept that women thousands of years ago were not so very different to how we are today. That’s one of the things that I like about this book. You can relate to the female characters.

Nothing new?

The club girls had quite divergent views on The Red Tent though. Some thought if you have read women’s studies during your formative years, you’ll find nothing new in this format. I accept that, but still thought it a good story, nicely told – an enjoyable read with enough pace and content to keep you interested.

I loved the image of the women collecting herbs and sewing them into the hemlines of their dresses as they traversed the desert.  I can even say I was moved to tears – particularly at the ending.

I read a lot of books so one of the ways I rate them is whether they stay with me months after I’ve read them. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant does. I couldn’t necessarily recount the tale or describe the characters but some of the images have lingered in my head. For that reason, I’m happy to recommend it.