One thing I’ve noticed over the course of my involvement in Central’s Brown Baggers Book Group (my first book group experience) is how many popular book group selections are actually books about reading and/or books that otherwise mirror the book group experience in various ways.
Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which we are discussing this Thursday July 15th at Noon in the Madison Room, is just the latest example of this meta book club phenomenon. Another of our recent selections Alan Bennett’s An Uncommon Reader falls squarely into this category as well. Guernsey’s fledgling book group/literary society is described thusly by one of its founding members, Amelia Maugery:
“We took turns speaking about the books we’d read. At the start, we tried to be calm and objective, but that soon fell away, and the purpose of the speakers was to goad the listeners into wanting to read the book themselves. Once two members had read the same book, they could argue, which was our great delight. We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to each other” p.51
That’s the perfect template of what a book group should aspire to, in my opinion, and I’m proud to say that our Brown Baggers Book Group has done its best to adhere to these standards. Our book club is filled with passionate, well-read people who respectfully state their case pro or con on a given book each month in a way that expands the entire group’s perspective, often supplying viewpoints and angles with which to look anew at text you might have been unimpressed with at first glance, or conversely supplying a well-reasoned critique of a work you may have been unconditionally enamored with. It has been a truly great experience. In the novel, the citizens of Guernsey passionately advocate for and against Seneca, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Carlyle and others as the deprivations of war set further and further in. It was interesting, on many levels, to read what exactly moved the people of Guernsey in the works of these revered authors.
There is more to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society than the author’s inspired belief in the beauties of reading and its power to illuminate even the darkest of days. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands provides interesting and moving dramatic subject matter while giving the reader insight into a sadly overlooked and underreported episode of World War II history; a history I’d considered nearly spent and exhausted as a source for quality fiction, but brought to vivid life in these pages.
Come and talk about it with us this Thursday.