Last month a coworker lent me the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (from now on to be referred to as TGLPPPS). I know it's been pretty popular since its release - I had been wanting to read it since I first heard about it through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers - but I never got around to picking it up until it was literally plopped right into my hands with someone saying "You need to read this book! You'll love it!"
Needless to say, I did love it. For those unfamiliar with the story, it takes place after WWII and in a story told through written correspondence it weaves a tale of a unique and charming book club formed by the residents of the island of Guernsey during Nazi occupation. As various members of the society share their letters and stories with a writer in London, she becomes enamored with their lives and becomes part of their world.
Interestingly enough, the book drew many parallels for me to another favorite historical fiction of mine: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (from now on to be referred to as TBT). Sometimes classified as young adult fiction, Zusak's novel is also set in WWII but takes place in Germany with a slightly different perspective on Nazi occupation. Aside from time period though, some of the similarities between TGLPPPS and TBT are what make them two of my favorite novels.
One thing they have in common is a unique narrative style. TGLPPPS is told through letters between all the different characters and the constant changing of narrative voice gives a fresh take and perspective on each portion of the story. TBT has a single narrator, but that narrator is Death, an appropriate choice for the time and place of the novel. I think the creativity in storytelling takes each of these books from being a good story to an excellent book.
Another point that I love in both books is the theme of the power of words. In TGLPPPS each member of the literary society tells a brief tale of a favorite author or book. Their choices in literature tell the reader as much about their personalities as their words and actions in the story. I don't want to spoil any of the plot, but books do a great deal to bring people together and create community in the novel.
This same theme is seen in TBT. The story begins with young Liesel Meminger stealing a book from the cemetery at her brother's graveside. Her desire to learn to read and her craving for books and new words parallels the growth of her character throughout the book and draws her closer to many of the other characters. In both novels, words and books are powerful instruments of change - which could very well be why many bibliophiles (like myself) have become so enamored with these two works.