The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was written by librarian and editor Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows, who contributed to the work once Shaffer's health began to decline. Published in 2008, the novel quickly achieved critical acclaim and commercial success.
The novel's heroine, Juliet Ashton, is a moderately successful writer who finds herself homeless and restless in London after World War II. Juliet's spur-of-the-moment journey to Guernsey Island, provoked by a letter from a stranger who has found her address in a book she once owned, takes her away from the life of glamour and superficial relationships that she thought she loved and exposes her to something new.
The novel unfolds in epistolary fashion, with the story first told in letters between Juliet and her publisher while she is on Guernsey. Juliet's time in London is documented in letters between Juliet, her publisher, and her newfound associates on Guernsey Island. Juliet forges friendships with the islanders based on their shared literary interests. Her initial contact person, Dawsey Adams, writes to her because books are scarce on Guernsey, and he would like to obtain more. Dawsey tells Juliet the secret of the titular book club, which was formed as a hasty alibi when its members were discovered violating the curfew set by German forces occupying the island during the war. The society brings together islanders from all walks of life, all of whom find solace in literature during the German occupation. The impromptu book club embodies a theme already known to most book lovers: a good book can help us through even the most trying of times.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is largely lighthearted and comical in tone, but the story of Elizabeth McKenna and her German lover bring a tragic note to the novel. Elizabeth functions as a foil of sorts to Juliet. The two never meet, as Elizabeth dies in a concentration camp long before Juliet comes to Guernsey, but it is through stories of Elizabeth that Juliet discovers what is missing from her supposedly fulfilling life—love and community. Juliet finds these on Guernsey Island and eventually fills many of the gaps created by Elizabeth's death. When Juliet takes over the task of raising Elizabeth's daughter, Kit, and allowing a romantic relationship with Dawsey to ripen, she finds a fulfillment unavailable to her in London. Juliet's and Elizabeth's relationships reveal a second theme: love is not always where we expect—or want—to find it.
(The entire section is 181 words.)
Part 1, January 8-11 Summary
Juliet Ashton writes to her London publisher, Sidney Stark, and tells him of the literary luncheon she attended at Susan Scott’s. Though Ashton sold more than forty books, she is particularly impressed with the food Scott served. Scott was able to procure real eggs—a rarity—and sugar for the meringue. Ashton offers, from her royalties, to help pay for butter coupons for Scott’s next gathering. Work on Ashton’s new book, though, is not progressing very well.
Her original idea, English Foibles, seemed like a good idea. She was going to make fun of such entities as the Society to Protest the Glorification of the English Bunny and the Vermin Exterminators’ Trade Union, but it turns out there is not much to write about beyond the obvious, and she no longer wants to write this book. While she loves her pseudonym, Izzy Bickerstaff, Ashton does not want to write anything else under that name. In short, Ashton wants to be considered as more than a light-hearted journalist.
It was sometimes difficult to help her readers laugh during the war years, but that time is over for Ashton. In order to write humor, she must find a sense of balance and proportion; and right now she can find neither of these things. In the meantime, Ashton is glad that Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War is making money for Stephens & Stark—it makes up (at least in part) for the “debacle” of her Anne Brontë biography.
Stark replies to Ashton’s letter a few days later and congratulates her on her effective connection to the audience at the literary luncheon. Based on that, he believes, she should not be nervous about her book tour next week; he is certain she will be a great success. He recalls having seen one of her dramatic readings eighteen years ago when she enthralled her audience—but suggests she should not throw the book at her audience when she is finished this time.
Scott is looking forward to taking Ashton on a tour of small bookstores from Bath to Yorkshire. Stark’s younger sister and Ashton’s best friend, Sophie, would like him to extend Ashton’s tour to Scotland, but he has told her that such a decision will be made later. While he understands that Sophie misses Ashton terribly, Stark must make a business decision rather than an emotional one.
Stark has just received the latest sales figures for her book from London and the Home Counties; sales are excellent and he...
(The entire section is 622 words.)
Part 1, January 12 Summary
Ashton writes her friend Sophie that she would love to see her but has been ordered by Sophie’s brother to go on a tortuous book tour. The thought of her going to Scotland for a visit instead would certainly make Stark glower—and they both know how well he can glower. Ashton is sure that her friend would pamper her if she did come and wonders if Sophie’s husband Alexander would mind a permanent resident on his couch.
While Ashton loves nothing better than reading and talking about her book to entranced audiences, the prospect is a gloomy one for her now. In fact, she is even more melancholy now than she was during the war because everything is so “broken”: the roads, the buildings, and especially the people.
Perhaps she feels this way because of the horrible dinner party she attended the night before; the food was (not surprisingly) horrible, and the conversation seemed to focus on bombs and starvation. As if that were not bad enough, her dinner partner was an intolerably boring single man. Ashton wonders if there is something wrong with her and whether she should lower her standards for acceptable men in her life. Even worse, she cannot blame her man troubles on the war, for she has never been very good at relationships.
Surely she will not be condemned to live only on the memories of her past loves, romanticized men whom she never actually met. Ashton asks her friend if she is too particular when it comes to men. She knows she does not want to be married just for the sake of being married, for she can think of nothing lonelier than spending the rest of her life with someone she cannot talk to—or worse, someone with whom she cannot be silent.
Ashton apologizes for complaining and says she is sure her friend must be relieved that she is not coming for a visit. She sends her love to Alexander and asks Sophie to give her son Dominic a kiss for her and tell him Ashton recently saw "a rat the size of a terrier.”
The same day, Ashton receives a letter from Dawsey Adams; he lives on a farm in St. Martin’s Parish on Guernsey. Adams found Ashton’s name and address on the front cover of a book Ashton once owned: The Selected Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb. Adams confesses that he loves this writing and assumes, since the title says Selected, Lamb must have written other things, and he wants to read them. The problem is that, though the Germans have...
(The entire section is 653 words.)
Part 1, January 15-18 Summary
In a letter to Dawsey Adams of Guernsey, Ashton writes that she has moved but is glad the letter Adams wrote still got to her. She was out of shelf room and had a spare copy of Lamb’s book, but she still felt like a traitor when she sold it. Hearing that her beloved book has landed in a good home has eased her mind, but she wonders how it got to Guernsey. Perhaps books have some kind of secret “homing instinct” that causes them to end up in the perfect hands.
Upon receiving Adams’ letter, Ashton went immediately to Hastings & Sons, not an onerous task, for rummaging through old bookstores is one of her favorite pastimes. It is the one store she has frequented for years, and she has always been able to find the exact book she wanted—plus several others she had not known she wanted. She explained Adams’ request, and Hastings will be sending a good, clean copy of the book (rather than a rare edition) with invoice enclosed. The bookstore owner was delighted to know that Adams is an admirer of Lamb and will locate a copy of his biography for him.
In the meantime, Ashton is sending him a gift: Lamb’s Selected Letters. She explains that what first appealed to her about Lamb was that he visited his friend Leigh Hunt in prison, helped him paint the ceiling of his cell sky blue with white clouds, and offered money, although he was a very poor man, to help Hunt get out of jail. He also taught Hunt’s youngest daughter to say the Lord’s Prayer backwards, and a man like that is someone about whom Ashton wanted to learn as much as she could.
That is also the beauty of reading, she tells Adams. Reading one thing in one book leads to other things in other books, and the possibilities for reading new and interesting things become geometrically progressive and have no foreseeable end—and all of it is done for nothing but pure enjoyment. She is also including a painting of Lamb done by one of his friends, William Hazlitt.
If Adams has time to correspond with her, Ashton has several questions for him. Why did a pig-roast dinner have to be kept secret? How did the aforementioned pig manage to begin a literary society? Finally, and most important, what is a potato peel pie, and why is it part of their group’s name? Ashton gives Adams her new address. She misses her last apartment, which was bombed in 1945; it had a wonderful view of the Thames from three windows. Nevertheless, she feels...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Part 1, January 21-23 Summary
In a letter to Stark, Ashton tells him that traveling on night-trains is a glorious experience once again. During the war, the trains were constantly delayed by troop trains and had to have blackout curtains on all the windows. She feels that during the war everyone seemed like moles scuttling along in their lonely tunnels; now the sight of families simply sitting together at their kitchen table is a delight to her.
At one bookshop, a man was aggressive with Ashton, demanding to know how she, “a mere woman,” dares to desecrate the name of Isaac Bickerstaff, a noted journalist and "the soul of eighteenth-century literature,” who is now dead. Before Ashton could answer, a woman from the back row jumped to her feet and said no one can desecrate a man who never lived. Isaac Bickerstaff was a pseudonym for Joseph Addison who published columns in Spectator magazine. Miss Ashton, the woman added, is free to choose whatever pretend name she wants.
Ashton asks Stark to investigate a man named Markham V. Reynolds. She does not know who he is, but he seems to know her itinerary. He has been sending grand bouquets of flowers to her, all with no message and only a card engraved with his name. She is not sure whether to feel “flattered or hunted.”
Sales for Izzy have been astounding; Ashton had been afraid that everyone would be so weary from the war that no one would want a remembrance of it, especially in a book. The women she has met on her book tour have told her their stories about the war, and Ashton wishes she had her column back and could write some of them. One woman told her of having four daughters in their teens. The oldest recently went to a tea at the cadet school, and when she walked into a room full of young men, she fainted. Ashton cannot imagine an entire generation growing up without the usual things young girls experience—dances, teas, and flirting.
The booksellers she has met are an exceptional group, as they are obviously in the business because they love readers and reading. Getting “first dibs” at a book is not a bad thing, either. Ashton’s and Sophie’s first job was in a second-hand bookshop. The cranky store owner used to admonish them not to get the new books dirty but then let them go off and read them.
It is always amazing to her that people go into bookstores with nothing particular in mind, just hoping to find something which will...
(The entire section is 667 words.)
Part 1, January 25 Summary
Susan Scott writes to her employer, Sidney Stark, warning him not to believe the newspaper reports. Ashton was not taken away in handcuffs and arrested; the local constable did scold her, but he could barely keep a straight face while doing it. Ashton did throw a teapot at Gilly Gilbert’s head, but the tea was cold and she did not scald him, as reported. The hotel manager refused to let Ashton repay him for the dented teapot, but Gilbert had screamed so loudly that he was forced to call for the constable. Here is what actually happened.
Gilbert asks for an interview with Ashton, and Scott should have denied his request. She knows he is a loathsome person who is jealous of the Spectator’s success with the Izzy columns, as well as of Ashton herself. Scott and Ashton return to the hotel after a bookstore party, tired but satisfied, when Gilbert pops up from a chair in the hotel lounge. He unctuously begs for a short interview with the wonderful Miss Ashton, England’s own Izzy Bickerstaff.
His tone should have alerted Scott, but she simply wants to sit down with some tea and gloat over their successful book tour. The interview is going well enough until Gilbert asks Ashton how she feels about almost being a war wife. He asks about Ashton’s plans to marry Lieutenant Rob Dartry, about making arrangements for the ceremony, applying for a marriage license, and reserving a table at the Ritz for a wedding luncheon—and then not showing up for any of it. He concludes that she jilted the officer at the altar, forcing him to go back to his ship, alone and humiliated. Dartry died in Burma three months later.
Scott can only gape at the man’s audacity and watch helplessly as Ashton attempts to be civil. She explains that it was not at the altar, it was the day before, and that Dartry was relieved, not humiliated, when she told him she did not want to be married after all. Dartry was a happy man when he left her and spent the evening dancing all night with another woman. Though Gilbert is surprised at this information, he senses an even more salacious story for his paper and goes on the attack.
Gilbert asks if Ashton left Dartry because of drink, other women, or something worse; Ashton throws the teapot at him and a hubbub ensues. Gilbert’s subsequent headlines are overdramatic and disgusting. Ashton is worried that she has embarrassed...
(The entire section is 618 words.)
Part 1, January 26 Summary
Stark writes that Ashton did not embarrass him or the company; he only wishes the tea had been hotter and she had aimed lower. The press is eager to get him to make a statement regarding the incident and Gilbert’s “latest muckraking,” and he will oblige them soon. His statement will about the degenerate state of journalism, not about Ashton or Dartry.
He has decided that they should not extend her book tour to Scotland. Sales of Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War are extraordinary, and he thinks she should come home. Ashton also has a job offer from the Times. They want a long article from her for their supplement, one of a three-part series which will be published in successive issues. He is going to let the Times surprise her with the subject matter, but there are three things which should reassure her about accepting the offer.
First, it will be written specifically by Juliet Ashton, not Izzy Bickerstaff. Second, the subject matter is serious; and third, the compensation is significant. She will able to buy fresh flowers for herself every day for a year; a satin quilt, which those who have not been bombed out are now allowed by the government to purchase; and a new pair of real leather shoes, if she can find them. He offers her his coupons. The article is not due until late spring, giving her time to think of a new book topic before then. This is a good reason for Ashton to come back to London, he says, but the most important reason he wants her to come back is because he misses her.
He has learned several things about the mysterious sender of flowers, Markham V. Reynolds, Junior. He is an American, the son of Markham V. Reynolds, Senior, who owns almost all of the paper mills in the United States. The son, however, is rather artistic and not particularly interested in the dirty business of making paper. Instead, he prints on it. He is a publisher and owns the New York Journal and the Word, as well as several smaller publications.
Reynolds is in London to open the London office of the View, but the rumor is that he is also interested in publishing books and is trying to tempt England’s best writers with promises of prosperity and plenty in America. Stark is not surprised that he has showered Ashton with flowers, for Reynolds has always had more nerve and brashness than most men. Stark warns her that Reynolds is a fine-looking man...
(The entire section is 556 words.)
Part 1, January 28 Summary
Ashton writes that she gladly accepts Stark’s dinner invitation, promising to wear her new dress and “eat like a pig.” She is thankful not having embarrassed the company; she had even considered making some sort of public statement but was concerned about making Dartry sound like a fool, which would have happened if she had tried to explain. She prefers looking like a flighty, hard-hearted woman to impugning a good man’s name; however, she would like to explain herself to Stark and tells him this story.
Stark was in the Navy in 1942, so he never met Dartry; Sophie was also away and only learned about the whole affair afterwards, and then Ashton swore her to secrecy. The longer she went without saying anything to Stark, the less important it became for him to know, especially since it made her look “witless and foolish for getting engaged in the first place.”
Ashton thought she was in love, and to prepare for sharing her home with her new husband, she cleared out half of her drawers, closet, medicine cabinet, and desk to accommodate him. After removing her rag doll from the bed and buying some more masculine hangers, she felt her apartment was now ready for two rather than one.
On the day before the wedding, Dartry was moving the last of his belongings in while Ashton was out; she returned to find he had bound up eight boxes of her books for storage so that he could fill her bookshelves with his athletic trophies. Dartry thought he had made a dramatic improvement by relegating her books to the basement, but Ashton had been too appalled to speak as she saw statues and certificates for everything from success playing ping pong to being the last man standing in a tug-of-war. She screamed at him to put her books back, and that was how it all began.
Ashton told Dartry that she could never marry a man whose happiness lay in hitting a ball or killing a bird; he countered with remarks about “damned bluestockings and shrews.” Things degenerated from there, and they wondered what they had ever talked about for the past four months. He left in a huff, and she unpacked her books.
She reminds Stark that she had laughed when he met her train last year to tell her that her apartment had been bombed; he thought she was hysterical, but she was laughing at the irony. If she had allowed Dartry to store all her books in the basement, she would still have them. Ashton tells Stark she would...
(The entire section is 541 words.)
Part 1, January 31 Summary
In a letter to Sophie, Ashton thanks her friend for flying down to see her in Leeds and assures her that the sketch in London Hue and Cry of her being taken away in chains is an exaggeration. She plans to maintain a dignified silence about the matter, but Stephens & Stark cannot do the same.
Stark held a press conference in which he defended the honor of Ashton, Izzy Bickerstaff, and journalism. He vilified Gilly Gilbert, calling him something like a “twisted weasel.” Stark made it clear that the so-called reporter lied because he was too lazy to learn the facts and too ignorant to understand how his poor behavior impacted the noble traditions of journalism. Ashton thought it was lovely and tells Sophie the two of them could not have had a better champion than Sophie’s older brother. While she is afraid Gilbert may try to retaliate, Susan Scott believes he is so cowardly that he will not dare such a thing. Ashton tells her friend that the flowers are still arriving consistently. Waiting for Reynolds to make himself known is making Ashton nervous; she wonders if this is his strategy.
Ashton receives a letter from Dawsey Adams thanking her profusely for the book she sent him. Adams works at St. Peter Port harbor unloading ships, and he is able to read during his tea breaks; he feels so blessed to have real tea and bread with butter—and now this book. Adams agrees to correspond with Ashton and starts by answering the three questions Ashton asked about their literary group.
Adams has a cottage and a farm; before the war, he kept pigs and grew vegetables and flowers to sell. He also did some carpentry and roofing. The pigs are gone now, taken by the Germans to feed their soldiers on the continent; the Germans also forced him to grow potatoes. Before he knew the Germans as well as he did later, he tried to keep several pigs hidden for his own use; however, the Agricultural Officer “nosed them out and carried them off.” After six months of eating nothing but turnips and an occasional lump of gristle, he could think of nothing but eating a fine meal.
One afternoon his neighbor, Mrs. Maugery, sent him a note telling him to come quickly and bring a butcher knife; she had hidden a pig and wanted to share a feast with him and her friends. This was Adams’ first dinner party, and he only agreed to attend because of the roast pig. Growing up, he had stuttered badly and never...
(The entire section is 784 words.)
Part 1, February 3-4 Summary
In a letter to Dawsey Adams, Ashton thanks him for telling her the story about the roast pig but reminds him that she asked three questions and would still like him to answer. She wants to know more about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society, because of personal curiosity and the professional habit of prying into the unknown.
Ashton tells Adams she wrote a weekly column for the Spectator during the war; after the war, Stephens & Stark compiled the columns and published them in a volume entitled Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War. The magazine chose her pseudonym, and she is thankful she can now write under her own name. Ashton would like to write a book, but she is having trouble finding a subject with which she can “live happily” for several years.
In the meantime, the Times has asked her to write an article for its literary supplement in a series on the practical, moral, and philosophical value of reading. Three authors will write articles which will be published as a series over three months. Ashton will write about the philosophical side of the debate and has virtually nothing to write about yet, other than her belief that reading keeps one from going crazy.
She asks Adams if he thinks the members of his society would mind being featured in the article, for she knows people would be fascinated by their story. If not, Ashton understands but would still like to continue corresponding with him. She also remembers the cartoon Adams mentioned and explains that it makes sense if he knows that Doodlebugs refers to Hitler’s “pilotless bombs.”
Though everyone in London had been used to the night bombing raids and the devastating aftermath, these new bombs came in daylight, and they came so quickly that there was no time for a siren to sound or for people to take cover. They looked like slanted black pencils and made a kind of sputtering sound as they passed overhead. Once these bombs grew silent, people had thirty seconds before the bombs plummeted straight to the ground. Because of that, people found themselves listening intently for the sound of a motor cutting out.
Ashton writes that she once saw one of the bombs. She threw herself in a gutter and curled up in preparation for the inevitable blast. In a nearby building, some women were looking out the window when the explosion occurred and were sucked out by the force of the...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Part 1, February 5-10 Summary
Markham Reynolds writes Juliet Ashton and allays her fears; he did not fire the delivery boy who gave her his address. He promoted the boy for getting what Reynolds has been unable to get—an introduction to her. Reynolds considers this their preliminary meeting, so he will no longer have to try to finagle invitations to events he thinks Ashton is likely to attend, hoping to meet her (something he has had very little success at doing because of her suspicious friends).
Reynolds claims his intentions are not mercenary. He wants to meet her because she is the only female writer who makes him laugh, and he wants to meet the woman who wrote the Izzy Bickerstaff columns, the “wittiest work to come out of the war.” He promises not to kidnap her and invites her to dinner next week.
In a short note, Ashton replies that she is not immune to compliments and would be delighted to dine with him next Thursday. He quickly responds by saying that Thursday is too far away and would like to meet her Monday at Claridge’s at 7:00; he also wonders if she has a telephone so that he can talk to her directly. She agrees to Monday but tells him her telephone is buried under a pile of rubble and the only phone in the apartment she is sub-letting belongs to her landlady, whom he is welcome to call.
A short letter from Dawsey Adams brings good news to Ashton. The Guernsey Literary Society would love to be part of her article for the Times, though he is sure their group is not much like any literary society in London. He has asked Mrs. Maugery to write Ashton about their meetings, as her words are better suited to publication than his. Hastings has not yet found the Lamb biography, but he sent Adams a postcard telling him that he is still looking and not to give up hope.
Adams is spending his days replacing the roof of a local hotel; the owners are hoping that tourists will return to Guernsey this summer. He will be happy to get back to his own farm work and is always relieved to receive a letter from Ashton.
Amelia Maugery writes a letter explaining more about the literary society which began in her home. Adams is more animated by this new connection to Ashton than she has ever seen him, and he even forgets to be shy when he talks about it. Maugery believes Adams has the gift of persuasion but does not know it. Because he asks nothing for himself, people are eager to help him. She will help...
(The entire section is 741 words.)
Part 1, February 12 Summary
Ashton writes Sophie to tell her that Markham V. Reynolds has finally become more than an embossed card attached to some flowers. She agreed to go to dinner with him at the elegant Claridge’s and then spent the next three days worrying about her hair. (She would also have been worrying about what to wear if she had not just gotten a new dress.) After several failed hairstyling attempts, a neighbor lady came to Ashton’s rescue and in just a few moments created an elegant upsweep—and Ashton could even move her head when the woman was finished. She tells Sophie about her evening.
When she sees Reynolds for the first time, Ashton’s confidence immediately leaves her. He is a stunning man, tanned with “blazing blue eyes” and a ravishing smile. Like many American men, Reynolds is tall. Also, his clothes are impeccable. He is an impressive man, used to ordering people around, but he does it so easily that they do not notice. Though he believes his opinion is truth, he is not disagreeable about it: “He is too sure he is right to be disagreeable.”
After they are seated in their own velvet-draped alcove and the restaurant staff is no longer hovering about them, Ashton asks him directly why he had sent all the flowers without any kind of a note. Reynolds laughs and says he hoped to pique her interest; if he had been more direct and asked her out to dinner, she undoubtedly would have declined. She admits he is right. Just as she is recovering from the insult of being so transparent, Reynolds begins talking about her Brontë book, among other things, and Ashton finds herself “utterly charmed.”
All the reasons she and Sophie imagined for Reynolds' remaining "a man of mystery” are wrong. He is not married or shy, has no disfiguring scar, and is neither a werewolf nor a Nazi on the lam. They are going dancing tomorrow, and Ashton is a little giddy.
Lady Bella Taunton’s letter to Maugery is blunt; while she cannot impugn Ashton’s character, she claims Ashton has no common sense. As fire-watchers, the two women often spent the night looking for incendiary bombs which might fall. If they saw one, they would rush to the spot and stifle any small blaze before it could spread. Though they generally maintained a professional silence, Taunton learned several things about her partner.
Ashton’s father was a respectable Suffolk farmer, and her mother was a typical farmer’s wife when she...
(The entire section is 721 words.)
Part 1, February 13-17 Summary
In his letter of recommendation, the Reverend Simpless assures Amelia Maugery that Juliet Ashton can be trusted. He was friends with her parents and was at their home the night Ashton was born. She was born stubborn but with a sweet, joyous temperament; even from a young age, she showed an unusual sense of integrity.
When she was ten years old, Ashton was singing the fourth stanza of “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” when she suddenly slammed her hymnal shut and refused to sing anything more, telling the choir director that the song “cast a slur on God’s character” and none of them should be singing it. Nonplussed, the choir director escorted the young girl to the Reverend’s office where she explained that the song makes it appear as if God is off bird-watching, rather than paying attention to the people who really need Him. Reverend Simpless agreed with her, though he had never thought about it before, and that song has not been sung in his church since that day.
The Ashtons died when Juliet was twelve, and she was sent off to live with her great-uncle. He was a scholarly man, so mired in his classical studies that he paid very little attention to the girl. Even worse, he had no imagination, a fatal flaw in someone engaged in child-rearing. Twice she ran away. The first time she was easily found; however, the uncle finally had to call the Reverend for help to find her the second time. Simpless knew exactly where to look: She was sitting, drenched from the rain, on a hill overlooking her parents’ farm (now sold).
After contacting the uncle, Simpless rode back with Ashton on the train to London and had planned to take the next train back to his parish. When he discovered that her uncle sent his cook to bring the girl home, Simpless insisted on accompanying them. After the men had a “vigorous talk,” the uncle decided a boarding school would be the best place for his niece, and her parents had left plenty of money for him to carry out this plan.
It was a good school, and Ashton thrived there, primarily because of her friendship with Sophie Stark and the Stark family, with whom she spent many holidays. Twice she and Sophie came to stay with the Reverend and his sister, and they had grand times doing many things. Sophie’s brother joined them once. Though he was ten years older than the girls and rather bossy, he was a welcome addition to their group.
Watching Ashton grow up was...
(The entire section is 538 words.)
Part 1, February 18 Summary
Ashton sends a cryptic note, with love, to Susan Scott denying everything.
Maugery writes Ashton to thank her for taking her requests seriously. She suggested that any Society members who are interested should write directly to Ashton about what books they read and the joy they find in reading. The response was so overwhelmingly loud that Isola Prisby, the group’s Sergeant-at-Arms, had to bang her gavel to restore order. It is likely that Ashton will be receiving many letters very soon.
The Society was invented as a ruse by the quick-thinking Elizabeth McKenna to keep the Germans from arresting Maugery’s six dinner guests, though the hostess knew nothing about it at the time. Here is how it happened.
After her guests leave, Maugery quickly buries all the evidence of their pig roast; the next morning at seven o’clock, McKenna appears in her kitchen and asks how many books she owns. While Maugery has quite a few, most of which are about gardening, McKenna says she will need more and a greater variety if they are going to be the Guernsey Literary Society. McKenna suggests that after she finishes at the Commandant’s office, they go to the local bookshop and buy everything they can find. All afternoon Maugery worries about what might be happening to her friends at the Commandant’s office and imagines the worst: prison camp on the continent. The Germans dispensed justice erratically, so one could never be sure what punishment might be imposed for any given crime.
None of Maugery’s fears are realized. The Germans allowed, even encouraged, artistic and cultural pursuits in the places they occupied. Their doing so was an attempt to prove to the British that the German Occupation was the model for how such things should be done. (Of course, the British would never know about this since the telephone and telegraph cables between Guernsey and London had been cut the day the Germans arrived in Guernsey in June of 1940.) However skewed their thinking, the Germans treated the people of the Channel Islands better than the rest of conquered Europe, at least at first.
At the Commandant’s office, the members pay a small fine and give the names of all members in the Society. The Commandant claims to be a lover of literature, as well, and asks if he can attend their meetings occasionally. Of course, McKenna tells him, he would be quite welcome. After that meeting, several members of the group...
(The entire section is 760 words.)
Part 1, February 19 Summary
Isola Pribby is the Sergeant-at-Arms for the Guernsey Literary Society, and she is thrilled to learn that Ashton has written a biography on Anne Brontë, which Maugery will soon lend her. Pribby knows much about the Brontë family. She believes the father was a selfish brute, that the brother was nearly as bad, and that all the girls' dying so young was a tragedy. It is her belief that since there were no admirable men in the Brontë household, Emily had to invent Heathcliff purely from her imagination. Pribby believes that Emily did a fine job and that men are much more interesting in books than they are in real life.
She would have liked to send Ashton her notes on the Brontë girls from the Society meeting in which she spoke about them, but she used them for kindling, after she had already used the book of Revelation, the tide tables, and the story about Job. She likes the Brontës’ works because they are stories of passionate encounters. Though Pribby has never had such an encounter, she can now imagine one. Catherine’s scrabbling fingers on the window and Heathcliff’s pitiful cries on the moor have ensured that she will not be reading any more frivolous books. She now believes that “reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”
Pribby has a small cottage on some land near Maugery’s manor house and farm; both of them live close to the sea. While Maugery grows things, Pribby cares for her chickens and goat, Ariel; she also has a parrot named Zenobia who does not like men. Every week she has a stall at Market where she sells various things, including her homemade elixirs to “restore manly ardor.” Elizabeth McKenna’s four-year-old daughter Kit helps her make these potions; she has to stand on a stool, but she is able to “whip up big froths.”
A tall, big-boned woman, Pribby says she is not particularly pleasing to look at. Her nose is big, once broken when she fell off the hen-house roof; one eyeball is rather out-of-control, and her hair will not lie flat. She offers to write again if Ashton would like her to talk more about reading and how it helped her and others keep their spirits up when the Germans occupied Guernsey.
The only time reading did not help in this regard was when McKenna was arrested by the Germans. She was hiding a poor slave worker from Poland and got caught; she was sent to prison in France. No book could have consoled Pribby then or for a...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
Part 1, February 20-26 Summary
Ashton writes Adams to thank him for sending her white lilacs, her favorite flower. She wonders how he managed to find them in winter but then remembers that the Channel Islands are blessed with the warm Gulf Stream weather. The flowers were delivered by a Mr. Dilwyn who was in London on business for his bank. He expressed his cheerful willingness to perform this task (or any other) for Adams because Adams gave Mrs. Dilwyn some soap during the war. (She still cries every time she thinks of this kind act.)
Ashton tells him she has received lovely, informative letters from Amelia Maugery and Isola Prisby. Until she read their letters, Ashton had not realized that the Germans had permitted no news at all from the outside world, not even letters. Perhaps it should not have surprised her, but it did. Though she knew the Channel Islands had been occupied by the Germans, she never once considered what that might have meant for the residents.
Because of what she calls her “willful ignorance,” Ashton is going to educate herself. She also wants to find some travel or history books about the Channel Islands and asks Adams if it is true that, on a clear day, residents can see the shores of France. Her encyclopedia is old and may not be accurate, but it says that Guernsey is roughly seven miles long and five miles wide and has 42,000 inhabitants. While that is informative, Ashton would like to know more than just facts and figures about Guernsey.
She tells Adams that she knows about Elizabeth McKenna’s internment in a prison camp in France, and learning that McKenna has not come home stunned her. Ever since Adams wrote about the roast pig dinner, Ashton has been imagining McKenna as part of the Society. Without knowing it, Ashton has been counting on receiving a letter from her and is sorry to know that will not be happening. She hopes for his friend’s timely return. In a postscript, she asks Adams why Mrs. Dilwyn wept over a cake of soap.
In a short note to Stark, Ashton wonders if he has been ignoring her because of Markham Reynolds. She wonders if he likes this idea for her new book: a novel about a “beautiful yet sensitive author whose spirit is crushed by her domineering editor.” Two days later, she writes a note which simply says, “I was only joking.” Two days after that, she writes only one word: “Sidney?” All three notes are signed with love.
After three unanswered notes,...
(The entire section is 710 words.)
Part 1, February 28 Summary
Ashton agrees with Sophie, writing that Stark's going to Australia is surprising, but Langley would steadily have drunk himself to death in the rest home if someone had not gone to stop him. Though she loves Stark dearly, Ashton feels rather liberated knowing that he is so far away for now.
For the past three weeks, Reynolds has been persistent in his attention to her, and Ashton finds herself always waiting for Stark to discover them, although they certainly have not been in hiding. Stark has made it clear that he does not like Reynolds, calling him “aggressive and unscrupulous," but Ashton is a grown woman and can socialize with anyone she chooses.
Aside from always being on the lookout for Stark, Ashton tells Sophie she is having a wonderful time gadding about every night with Reynolds. It is exciting, like emerging from a black tunnel and finding herself in the middle of a carnival. Some people, and especially Americans, do not seem to have been at all affected by the horrors of war. Reynolds is one of those who appears to be unscathed, though he was in the Air Corps; she knows this is just an illusion and would be ashamed if she were unmoved by the war. Now, though, she does not feel guilty about having a good time.
In a letter to Isola Pribby, Ashton writes that she fell in love with Emily Brontë in the same way Pribby did. She and her friend Sophie had been assigned to read Wuthering Heights over a holiday, and they whined at the injustice until Sophie’s older brother told them just to get busy and read. Ashton was still angry until Cathy’s ghost scratched at the window. After that, she and Sophie read everything the Brontë sisters wrote. She chose to write about Anne because she was the least-known sister and was under the strong influence of her fanatically religious aunt who told her God wants women to be meek, mild, and melancholy.
Eben Ramsey, a Literary Society member, writes Ashton his story. His forefathers were tombstone-cutters; though he sometimes carves in the evening, he makes his living as a fisherman. He never wanted to talk about the Occupation again, but Maugery says Ashton wants to write about the Society during the war and can be trusted. Also, Ashton sent Adams a book without even knowing him, so he will talk to her.
Most of the group had had nothing to do with reading and books since their school days, so their Society was not particularly...
(The entire section is 844 words.)
Part 1, March 1 Summary
A citizen of Guernsey who is not a member of the Literary Society, Miss Adelaide Addison, writes a letter to Ashton because she feels it is her duty to give her some very important information. She has learned from Dawsey Adams that Ashton is writing an article for the Times’ literary supplement about the value of reading and intends to feature the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The idea makes Addison laugh.
She is hoping Ashton will reconsider her plan after hearing some terrible facts about members of the group. First of all, the founder of the group, Elizabeth McKenna, is not even a native Islander. Though she puts on “fine airs,” McKenna is “merely a jumped-up servant” from a wealthy home in London owned by Sir Ambrose Ivers of the Royal Academy. Ivers is a prominent painter (though Addison has never understood why he is in such demand), and McKenna is the daughter of Ivers’ housekeeper.
When she was growing up, McKenna was allowed to putter about Ivers’ studio while her mother was working, and Ivers paid for her schooling well beyond what is acceptable for a person of her social class. McKenna’s mother died when the girl was fourteen, and Ivers did not do what he should have done—send the girl away to an institution so that she could be properly trained for some suitable occupation. Instead, he did a most improper and scandalous thing by keeping her with him in his Chelsea home. Eventually he recommended her for a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art.
Of course, Addison is not accusing Ivers of being the girls’ father, as he has different, well- known tendencies; however, it is clear he doted on her in such a way as to feed McKenna’s “besetting sin,” which is a lack of humility. While standards are deteriorating everywhere, nowhere is this decay more evident than in the life of Elizabeth McKenna.
Ivers owns a home in Guernsey, and McKenna and her mother would spend their summers here with him. The girl was a hoyden: roaming unkempt around the island (even on Sundays!); not wearing shoes, stockings, or gloves; going out on fishing boats with rude men; and spying on people through her telescope. She was a disgrace in every way.
When war grew imminent, Ivers sent McKenna to close up his house on the Island. Just as she was putting up the shutters, the German soldiers arrived at the doorstep. Despite that, she had the choice to...
(The entire section is 578 words.)
Part 1, March 2-4 Summary
Markham V. Reynolds writes a note inviting Ashton to attend the opera in Covent Garden at 8:00. (He appropriated tickets from his music critic.) When she receives the note, she writes to ask if he means tonight, and when he responds in the affirmative, she accepts with enthusiasm. The tickets are hard to get, and she feels sorry for his music critic; however, Reynolds says the critic will be fine in the standing room section and can actually write his story from the perspective of the poor or some other such thing. Reynolds will pick Ashton up at seven o’clock. Reynolds now signs all his correspondence to Ashton with “Mark” or simply “M.”
Ashton writes Eben Ramsey and thanks him for sharing his experiences during the Occupation. At the end of the war, she too promised herself that she would no longer talk about it, wanting to pay attention to something else after six years; however, the war is now the story of all their lives and cannot be ignored. It is good news that his grandson Eli is back home, and Ashton asks more about those circumstances. She knows about the pig roast, but she wonders how Maugery came to have a pig and how she hid it from the Germans.
She tells Ramsey she admires Elizabeth McKenna and encourages him and the other members of the group not to give up hope. Ashton’s friends have told her that Europe is now a place teeming with thousands of displaced people, all trying to get home. One dear friend of hers was shot down in Burma in 1943 and just last month reappeared in Australia.
Another Society member, Clovis Fossey, writes Ashton a letter about his experiences in the group. He is a farmer, and at first he did not want to attend any book meetings. He was not particularly interested in wasting his time reading about people who never existed, doing things they never did. In 1942, however, he began to court Widow Hubert. When they went on walks, and she marched ahead of him letting Ralph Murchey take her arm, Fossey knew he was losing his suit.
Murchey is a braggart when he drinks; he would proclaim to everyone in the tavern that women like to hear poetry, and when they hear “a soft word in their ears . . . they melt.” He saw Widow Hubert only as an opportunity to gain more grazing land for his cows. That is when Fossey decided that he would give Widow Hubert some poetry.
Fossey went to the bookstore and asked for some love poetry. By that time in the...
(The entire section is 689 words.)
Part 1, March 10 Summary
Ramsey writes Ashton a letter in response to her questions about his grandson, Eli. The boy’s mother, Ramsey’s daughter, died on the day the Germans bombed Guernsey; his father died two years later in Africa. Eli lives with Ramsey now, but he had been evacuated, along with thousands of other babies and schoolchildren, to England eight days before the bombing. There was no word about the children for six months; then Ramsey got a postcard from the Red Cross which said Eli was well. No one knew where the children had been taken, and it was a long time before Ramsey was able to write his grandson. He had to tell Eli that both his parents had died.
Eli and the other children all came home together once the war was over, and it was a day of joyous celebration—even better than the day the British soldiers came to liberate Guernsey. Ramsey is thankful that Eli stayed with a farm family who was very good to him. They sent a letter for Ramsey, chronicling everything he had missed as his grandson grew up. Now Eli helps his grandfather tend the cows and garden, but what the boy likes best is carving. Unfortunately, there is not much wood left on the island since they cut it all down when there was nothing else to burn. He and Eli are planting trees now, but it will take a long time for them to grow.
The Germans were meticulous in keeping a strict count of cows and pigs, as Guernsey was responsible for feeding all the German troops stationed in France, as well as on the Island. If any food was left, the natives were allowed to have it. The Germans also monitored milk, cream, and flour. For a time, they left the chickens alone; however, they eventually ordered the older chickens to be killed so that the younger hens would have enough food to keep laying eggs.
Fishermen like Ramsey had to turn over most of what they caught; the soldiers would meet them in the harbor to collect their share. Early in the Occupation, many Islanders escaped to England in fishing boats, though not all made it. Soon no one who had family in England was allowed in a fishing boat. Since Eli was in England somewhere, Ramsey had to lend out his boat and went to work in greenhouses.
The Germans were most contentious about meat; they wanted it to feed their soldiers, not sold on the Black Market. Every time a sow had a litter, the Agricultural Officer came and issued a Birth Certificate for each piglet. If one died of natural causes,...
(The entire section is 795 words.)
Part 1, March 12 Summary
Dawsey Adams writes an answer to Ashton’s question about Mrs. Dilwyn’s crying over soap. During the middle of the Occupation, soap became scarce and families were only allowed one bar per month. The soap was made of some kind of French clay and would produce no lather: “[Y]ou just had to scrub and hope it worked.” Staying clean was hard work, and everyone got used to being rather dirty all the time. The soap allotted for clothes and dishes was no better.
Some of the ladies suffered greatly because of this, and Mrs. Dilwyn was one of those women. Most of her dresses, bought before the war, had come from Paris, and they were ruined much more quickly than others. One of Adams’ neighbors had a pig that died of milk fever, and he offered Adams the carcass. Adams remembers his mother's once making soap from fat, so he rendered the fat from the carcass and made his first attempt at soap. It was a disaster. He kept experimenting and soon created sweet-smelling discs of soap which he wrapped and gave as gifts to the ladies at the next Society meeting. For the next several weeks, they all “looked like respectable folks.”
Adams is now working several days a week at the quarry. Last night Maugery and McKenna’s daughter Kit came over for dinner and then sat on the beach to watch the moon rise. Kit loves to do this, but she always falls asleep too early to see it; she thinks she will be able to stay awake long enough when she is five.
Ramsey wonders if Ashton knows much about children; he does not, but he is slowly learning. He fears he does not have anything important to say, so he is glad to answer Ashton’s questions.
Adelaide Addison writes a second letter of condemnation against the Literary Society, since Ashton obviously did not take her advice from the last letter. This, says Addison, “is not to be borne,” and she writes again in an effort to stop Ashton from this endeavor.
It is obvious to her that she did not reveal enough information about the true character of the Literary Society members, so she is compelled to offer more salacious details so that Ashton will understand just whom she is preparing to glorify in her article. The Society members have colluded to raise the illegitimate child of McKenna and Doctor/Captain Christian Hellman—a German soldier! Of course, Ashton must be shocked by this news.
Addison feels she must be fair and state that...
(The entire section is 751 words.)
Part 1, March 20-25 Summary
Stark sends Ashton a cable saying his trip home will be delayed; he fell off a horse and broke his leg. Piers Langley is nursing him. Ashton replies with a cable offering her condolences and asking which leg he broke. He replies that it was the other one. She is not to worry; he does not have much pain, and Langley is an excellent nurse. Ashton is relieved that it was not the same leg she broke and asks if she can send him something to help his convalescence: books, recordings, poker chips, or her life’s blood. In a final cable, Stark says he needs none of those things, but he would like her to keep sending long letters to entertain him and Langley.
In a letter to Sophie, Ashton writes it is ridiculous for Sophie to think about flying to Australia to help her brother. Langley is taking excellent care of Stark, and he is undoubtedly doing a better job than either of them could. She reminds her friend of what a “vile patient” Stark is and says they should be thankful he is thousands of miles away. Besides, Stark is in desperate need of some rest, and this is the only way he will get it. Most importantly, Ashton tells her, Stark does not want them there.
Ashton knows the best thing she can do for Stark is write a new book, so she will stay in her dreary apartment and seek inspiration for a subject to write about. Though she has one tiny thought, it is too weak to share yet, even with Sophie. In honor of Stark’s broken leg, Ashton is going to feed the idea a bit to see if it grows.
Now she will answer Sophie’s outrageously blunt questions about Markham V. Reynolds, Junior. First of all, it is too obvious for Sophie to ask outright whether Ashton is in love with Reynolds. The “first rule of snooping” is to approach such matters sideways rather than directly. She reminds her friend that when Sophie started writing giddy letters to her about Alexander, she did not ask if Sophie was in love with him. Instead, she asked what his favorite animal was, and Sophie’s answer told her everything she needed to know about him, for not many men would admit to loving ducks. Ashton does not know what Reynolds’ favorite animal is, but she is reasonably certain it is not a duck.
Sophie might ask her Reynolds’ favorite authors (Dos Passos and Hemingway), his favorite color (blue), if he is a good dancer (yes, much better than she), or if he has brothers and sisters (two older sisters and a younger...
(The entire section is 694 words.)
Part 1, March 27-31 Summary
John Booker is another member of the Literary Society, though he has read only one book, over and over: The Letters of Seneca: Translated from Latin in One Volume, with Appendix. He writes to Ashton, telling her how the book and the Society kept him from being a lifelong drunkard. For four years of the Occupation, John Booker pretended to be his former employer, Lord Tobias Penn-Piers. The nobleman fled to England when Guernsey was bombed; Booker was his valet and stayed.
On the night of the pig roast, Booker walked home after curfew with the others, although he is unclear about some of the details because he was, as usual, slightly drunk. He heard soldiers shouting and waving their guns, and he knew Adams was holding him upright. Booker remembers hearing McKenna talking about books, although he could not fathom why, before Adams pulled him quickly through a pasture. He fell into bed, and that is all he remembers.
The one book he has read has had a profound influence on his life. Seneca was a Roman philosopher who wrote letters to imaginary friends, telling them how to live their lives. It is a witty book, and Booker believes he learns more if he is also able to laugh. He thinks Seneca’s words “travel well,” applying to all men in all times, including the German soldiers in Guernsey.
Lord Tobias wanted to escape the war, so he bought La Fort manor on Guernsey. (He had spent World War I in the Caribbean but suffered terribly from the prickly heat while there.) He and Lady Tobias moved to their new home, but their butler in London locked himself in a pantry and refused to come. Booker, their valet, came in his place and supervised the arrangement of every lovely thing Lord Tobias owned, including the careful stocking of his wine cellar. As the last picture was being hung on the wall, the Germans bombed the port.
Lord Tobias hollered over the noise for his yacht to be readied and all of his precious things to be loaded—including Lady Tobias, if there was enough room—so that he could set sail for England immediately. As Lord Tobias screamed for him to hurry and board, Booker suddenly thought of all the fine wines still at the manor and imagined a life without being in service to another. He turned his back on his employer and watched from the hill as the yacht sailed away, Lord Tobias still screaming.
From that day on, he read about grapes, tended the garden, slept in silk...
(The entire section is 811 words.)
Part 1, April 2 Summary
Dawsey Adams writes to Ashton and is not surprised that Adelaide Addison wrote Ashton such derogatory letters, for she “lives on her wrath.” Very few eligible men were left on Guernsey during the war, and the few who remained were suffering the effects of the Occupation; they were defeated and their appearances reflected that defeat. While there was no glamour among the remaining Guernsey men, the German soldiers had plenty of it.
Like gods, they were tall, blond, handsome, and tanned. They had money, were enjoyable company, and could dance all night. Some of the girls who dated these men would give the things they got from the soldiers to their families: cigarettes, meat patties, jellies, rolls, and fruit. Their families would eat well the day after a party.
To some Islanders, boredom was not a good enough excuse to befriend the enemy, but Adams notes that the prospect of fun is a terrible temptation, especially to young people. He was unable to ignore the Germans’ existence as others did, and one German became his good friend. Christian Hellman was a doctor with the Occupation forces.
Late in 1941 there was no salt on the Island and the root vegetables everyone was now eating were quite bland, so the Germans got the idea to make salt from seawater by boiling away the water. The plan failed because there was not enough wood to keep fires going long enough, so everyone decided to cook their vegetables in the saltwater. While it was an improvement in flavor, too many residents were unable to haul the heavy buckets of water up from the sea. Adams, who was very fit, decided to deliver water to some residents.
He bartered for an old baby stroller and some kegs which he used to haul the water. One day in November, Adams’ hands were nearly numb after filling up one of the casks. Hellman drove by but then backed up, got out of his car, and wordlessly helped Adams finish his task. Adams was working despite a limp and Hellman had a stiff arm and shoulder, and eventually they dropped a full barrel as they were hauling it up the cliff. The two men were soaked with water and the keg fell down the hill and splintered against the rocks.
Though it was not a particularly humorous incident, the two men were unable to stop laughing. When Adams’ paper copy of Lamb’s book fell out of his pocket, Hellman picked it up and looked at it with appreciation. He told Adams that he often read Lamb at home...
(The entire section is 697 words.)
Part 1, April 4-7 Summary
Juliet Ashton writes Amelia Maugery, telling her that the sun is out for the first time in months and, if she averts her eyes from the piles of rubble, she can almost pretend that London is beautiful again. She tells her new friend that Adams has written her about Christian Hellman and reflects that war has caused all kinds of tragedies, but she is thankful some of McKenna’s Literary Society friends were there when she had her baby. Now, down the street, a man is painting his front door a beautiful sky blue. Two boys had been whacking one another with sticks, but now they want to help paint and the man hands them each a paintbrush. Perhaps the war does eventually end.
Reynolds is impatient that Ashton has so little time for him lately and writes to tell her that he promises she can choose whatever activity she wishes and he will be docile and agree. She writes a note in response, inviting him to go with her to the Royal Museum where she has an appointment in the Reading Room; they can visit the mummies afterward. Suddenly Reynolds is not so docile and asks her to skip the appointment and come to lunch with him. So much for docile, she writes.
Will Thisbee, another member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society member, writes Ashton a letter to explain what reading has meant to him. He calls himself an “antiquarian ironmonger,” though nearly everyone else calls him a “rag-and-bone man.” He invents labor-saving devices; his latest is an electric clothespin that moves clothing hanging on the line like a gentle breeze.
Though he has come to find solace in reading, it was not always so; at first he came to Society meetings to listen and eat pie in a corner of the room. Isola Pribby eventually told him he had to choose a book and present it to the group like everyone else. She gave him a book by Thomas Carlyle called Past and Present, and it was a tedious work for Thisbee to read until he came to a section on religion.
While Thisbee was not a religious man, he often flitted from church to chapel looking for the truth about faith but found it too elusive. Carlyle presented him with a new thought, that man once knew his own soul but now only knows it by hearsay. Thisbee agrees that preachers should not have to tell men that they have souls; if man can believe it on his own, then he can “listen to its tidings” by himself.
When Thisbee did finally present his book,...
(The entire section is 631 words.)
Part 1, April 8-10 Summary
Mrs. Clara Saussey used to belong to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, but she is certain none of the members have told Ashton about her. She never read a book by a dead writer; instead, she read from her own cookbook, and she is certain her book caused more tears and sorrow than any other book the group discussed.
Saussey would read descriptive passages from her book, such as those about juicy roast pig and spun-sugar sweets, and it was nothing but torment for the starving group to hear such words. There was swearing and even the threat of violence before several members swept Saussey away safely. The next day, Ramsey called her to apologize but asked her to remember that most members of the group regularly ate only tasteless turnip soup or scorched potatoes cooked dry on a grill. Saussey tells Ashton she has no intention of forgiving them.
Not one of the Literary Society members cares anything about literature, according to Saussey, or they would have had more appreciation for her book, “sheer poetry in a pan.” The members were simply bored and wanted an excuse to get out of the house, and Saussey wants the truth about this group told in Ashton’s article. Without the Occupation, none of the Literary Society would even have touched a book.
Maugery now writes her new friend Ashton regularly. In this letter she agrees that it seems as if war and the effects of war are never-ending. When Maugery’s son died, people tried to console her with the platitude that “life goes on.” In fact, it is death which goes on; there is no end to it, though perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow. The world has been deluged with sorrow and it will take time for it to recede; there are already small islands of hope.
Maugery’s greatest pleasure now is to walk along the cliff tops in the evenings, where she is free now to walk when and where she likes. When she looks out at the sea, her view is no longer marred by the rolls of barbed wire or the huge VERBOTEN signs, and the mines have been removed from the beaches. Facing the sea, she does not see the ugly cement bunkers or the land stripped of trees behind her: “Not even the Germans could ruin the sea.”
Already the bunkers are beginning to be covered up by gorse and vines, and Maugery hopes they are soon covered. Even when she looks away, she cannot forget they were built by Todt workers, Germany’s slave workers in camps on...
(The entire section is 783 words.)
Part 1, April 11 Summary
In a letter to Dawsey Adams, Ashton says she has received another letter from Adelaide Addison; it is dedicated to vilifying all the “people and practices she deplores.” Adams is one of them, as is his beloved Charles Lamb. Among her complaints is the fact that she called on Adams to have him deliver the parish magazine but she could not find him anywhere. He was not milking his cow, hoeing his garden, washing his house, or anything else which might be useful for a farmer to do; instead, she found him lying in his hayloft and reading a book by Charles Lamb. Adams was so engrossed with “that drunkard” that he did not even notice Addison was there. Ashton assures Adams that she thinks Addison is a “blight” and wonders if he knows how the woman became what she now is; her theory is that she was visited by an evil fairy at her christening.
On the other hand, the image of Adams reading in the hay reminds her of her childhood. Her father was a farmer and she used to help by gathering eggs, weeding the garden, and frolicking in the hay when she was in the mood. One time she was reading The Secret Garden while lying in the hayloft with a cowbell next to her. After an hour of reading, she would ring the bell for the cook to bring her a glass of lemonade. The cook soon grew weary of this arrangement and told Ashton’s mother; she got no more lemonade, but she did continue to read in the hay.
Mr. Hastings has found the Lamb biography and has sent it on to Adams immediately, without even fixing a price, for he believes that a lover of Lamb should not have to wait.
Susan Scott writes to her employer, Sidney Stark, and scolds him for being away so long. She is worried about the company, Stephens & Stark, because Stephens is not suited to the task of running the company. One day he actually showed up at the office before ten o’clock in the morning, but “the effort annihilated him.” The poor man was drinking by eleven thirty and did not even show up the next day. Stephens is good at writing checks, but nothing else is getting accomplished.
Another employee has “gone completely berserk” and wants to color-coordinate the entire children’s list (pink and red), and the mailroom boy got drunk and threw away all mail addressed to anyone whose name begins with the letter S. Others have nearly come to blows, and it is time for Stark to come home. In case that is not enough of an...
(The entire section is 562 words.)
Part 1, April 12 Summary
In a letter to Stark and Langley (who are recuperating in Australia), Ashton relates what she has learned about Guernsey. She has looked everywhere, even the Reading Room at the library (a place which petrifies her), and she has discovered a lot about this place which she has only learned about recently.
One man, Cee Cee Meredith, was rich and adventurous, and he sailed into various ports and wrote about what he saw and felt. Meredith, says Ashton, was an “idiot who thought he was a poet” and did not always bother himself with any of the dull facts of a place; often he would find a moor, beach, or field and let his poetic muse move him. Despite this, his book A-Tramp in Guernsey gave Ashton what she needed in order to get a real sense of the island.
Meredith wrote about the beautiful sights and sounds around him, including the freesias and daffodils and the tinkling of the cowbells; he also appreciated the Norman patois spoken by the natives and their belief in fairies and witches. He admired the cottages, the hedgerows, and the shops, but he wrote rapturously about the sea. However, his co-author, Dorothea, loathed Guernsey and was relegated to writing the history of the Island. She wrote the facts with as little finesse as possible.
The Islands were once owned by the Duchy of Normandy, but William the Conqueror (the Duke of Normandy) gave them to England with special privileges. Both King John and King Edward III increased these privileges, but they were not in the least deserved. Later, after a weak Henry VI lost most of France back to the French, the Channel Islands elected to remain a Crown Possession of England (a wise choice).
While the Islands owe their allegiance to England, they cannot be made to do anything they do not want to do—an outrage to Dorothea. Guernsey’s governing body is called the States of Deliberation (known as the States), and the real decision-maker is the President of the States, elected by the States and called the Bailiff. In fact, everyone is elected and no one is appointed, totally eliminating the need for the monarchy, a fact which outraged Dorothea. The Crown’s only representative on the Islands is the Lieutenant Governor. While he is welcome to attend meetings and speak as much as he wishes, the Lieutenant Governor is not allowed to vote. Dorothea was even more incensed at this.
In addition, England can impose no taxes on the Islands...
(The entire section is 551 words.)
Part 1, April 15 Summary
Dawsey Adams is not sure what ails Adelaide Addison. Isola Pribby’s theory is that she is a blight because she enjoys being a blight. It gives her a sense of destiny. The one good thing Addison did in her letter of destruction was demonstrate how much Adams enjoys reading Charles Lamb’s writing.
The biography has arrived and out of impatience he has been reading too quickly; he will go back and reread more slowly so he can ingest everything more thoroughly. Adams appreciates Lamb’s ability to take something familiar and turn it into something fresh and beautiful. In fact, Adams feels more at home in Lamb’s London than he does in his own home town right now.
He does have difficulty imagining how Lamb could have come home after work one day to find his mother stabbed to death, his father bleeding, and his sister Mary standing over both of them with a bloody knife. Adams wonders how Lamb, only twenty-one at the time, could have taken the knife away from his sister, watched the police take her away to an asylum, and then persuaded the judge to release Mary to his care and custody. His promise to take care of Mary for the rest of her life was serious and he never wavered from that vow.
Adams is moved by the fact that Lamb had to quit writing the poetry he loved so he could write work that would sell (criticism and essays) but did not inspire him. How discouraging it would be to work all of his life as a clerk at the East India Company, knowing Mary would inevitably go mad again and he would have to place her in a private home. It must have been the worst thing, to see the signs of symptoms of madness growing in a sister who had become a friend—and the sister knowing he is watching but helpless to stop the coming madness. They both must have detested living such a life.
It is an odd thing to Adams that when she was sane, Mary and her brother enjoyed a great friendship. Mary was also a great favorite among their friends, including Wordsworth, Hazlitt, Hunt, and particularly Coleridge. In the book Coleridge was reading when he died, he had written that Charles and Mary Lamb were “dear to his heart.”
Adams apologizes for writing so much about his beloved Charles Lamb, but he wants to express his appreciation to both Ashton and the bookseller, Mr. Hastings, for their books. They have given him so much to think about as well as much pleasure.
He appreciates Ashton’s...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
Part 1, April 18 Summary
Juliet Ashton thanks her Guernsey friend Dawsey Adams for writing about Charles Lamb in his letters to her. She has always believed that his sister Mary’s suffering is what made Lamb a great writer, even though he had to make great sacrifices because of it. His experiences with Mary gave him a “genius for sympathy” that none of his great writer friends had.
When Wordsworth scolded his friend Lamb for not caring enough about nature, Lamb wrote that he has no passion for places in nature, the groves and the valleys. What he appreciates and loves are the familiar things in his life: the room in which he was born, the furniture which he has seen all his life, a bookshelf full of old friends which have followed him everywhere he has gone, and familiar places. These are enough for him; he does not need mountains. Lamb feels no envy for Wordsworth; in fact, he would pity him if it were not true that the “Mind will make friends of any thing.” During the war, Ashton thought often about the fact that the mind can make friends with anything.
Today Ashton discovered another story about Charles Lamb and she tells it to Adams. Lamb often drank too much, but he was not a sullen drunk. One night he had too much to drink and his host’s butler was forced to sling Lamb over his shoulder in a fireman’s hold and take him home. The next day Lamb wrote a hilarious note of apology; it was such an extraordinary piece of writing that the man bequeathed it to his son in his will. She hopes Lamb wrote a note to the butler as well.
Ashton wonders if Adams has had the same experience she has had, that once her mind has become aware of someone new, that person seems to be present everywhere. Her friend Sophie calls it coincidence, but her pastor calls it grace. He believes that if one begins to care for anything or anyone new, there is an energy released into the world which results in “fruitfulness.”
Isola Pribby writes Ashton to ask her some questions, now that they are friendly correspondents. They are highly personal questions, and Adams told her it would not be polite to ask them; however, Pribby believes there is a difference between men and women. Adams has not asked her a personal question in fifteen years, though she wishes he would. She understands he has quiet ways and does not expect to change him or herself. Pribby assumes that since Ashton wants to know about all of them, she would like for...
(The entire section is 627 words.)
Part 1, April 20-21 Summary
Ashton happily answers Pribby’s questions and apologizes for not thinking of it herself before now. She is thirty-three years old and says her hair is chestnut with gold glints, though when she is in a bad mood she thinks of it as mousy brown. There was no wind when her book photo was taken; she has naturally curly hair and it is unruly. Her eyes are hazel and, though she is slim, she would prefer to be taller.
She no longer lives by the Thames; Ashton misses that most about her former home. She used to love the sound of the river, but now she lives in a small, overly furnished apartment that does not allow pets. If she could, she would love to own a dog. Kensington Gardens are nearby, so when she feels too cooped up she can rent a deck chair, place it under the trees, and enjoy the sights and sounds of people and the outdoors. Here she can almost be content.
Ashton’s former apartment was turned into a pile of rubble during the war, and she hopes the owner will rebuild. She was fortunate to be out of town when the bombing happened, and her friend Sidney Stark came to meet her at the train station and took her home to view what was left of her building. One wall was missing, so she could see her ruined possessions, including her books in a “muddy, sopping pile” and her mother’s portrait still hanging on the wall, “half-gouged and sooty.” The only intact item she and Stark found was a paperweight with Carpe Diem carved across the top, and it was the only thing which could be safely recovered.
Until Ashton’s parents died when she was twelve, she was a “fairly nice child.” When she had to leave the farm to go live with her uncle in London, she became a bitter and morose little girl who ran away twice. She caused her uncle much grief and, at the time, was glad to do so. Now she is ashamed of how she treated him; he died when she was seventeen, so she never got to apologize to him.
At thirteen, Ashton was sent to a boarding school and was stubbornly determined not to be cooperative or pleasant. The Headmistress marched her into the dining room and sat her down at a table with four girls. As Ashton mulishly sat there and glared at the girls, she locked eyes with Sophie Stark—the perfect girl with golden curls, blue eyes, and a sweet smile. Sophie tried to talk to her, but Ashton did not speak until Sophie told her she hoped Ashton would be happy here. Ashton told her she...
(The entire section is 766 words.)
Part 1, April 22 Summary
Eben Ramsey writes to thank Ashton for the lovely gift she sent Eli, his grandson. The boy sits and studies the blocks of wood, as if he can see something hidden inside them which he can release with his knife.
Not all of the children were evacuated during the war, but those that stayed behind suffered because there was not enough food for them. One boy was twelve but weighed no more than a seven-year-old. The choice was a terrible one for the parents: send their children away to live with strangers or keep them here in potential danger. The Germans might not come, but if they did, how would they treat the natives; however, England might be no safer if the Germans invaded there.
The Islanders were in shock when the German troops arrived because they did not think they would be of any use to Germany. They had assumed they would be spectators in the war, not participants. In 1940, though, Hitler moved quickly through Europe and was suddenly at the coast of France. Guernsey shook at the explosions in France, and it became obvious to the Islanders that England would have to use its resources to defend themselves. Guernsey was on its own.
In the middle of June, Guernsey officials called London to request ships to take their children to England. London said yes, but the children must be ready at once while the ships could still make the journey without harm. It was a desperate time for everyone and it felt to the Islanders like everything was in a great hurry. Ramsey’s daughter Jane was already weak at this time; but while other mothers were unsure, she insisted that her son, Eli, had to leave. The choice had to be made in one day, but the consequences lasted five years.
The school-age children and mothers with babies were transported first, and pocket money was given to any child who did not have any. The youngest children were thrilled at the prospect of buying sweets, and many thought it was going to be some kind of exciting, one-day field trip. They were the lucky ones; the older children, like Eli, knew better. One sight Ramsey will never forget is two little girls dressed in pink dresses and petticoats, as if they were attending a party. They must have been very cold as they crossed the Channel.
All the children were to be dropped off by their parents at the school where they were to say their good-byes. Buses took the children down to the pier. There was no time to gather a convoy to...
(The entire section is 671 words.)
Part 1, April 24 Summary
Pribby writes in response to Ashton’s telegram and proudly announces that McKenna did, indeed, slap Adelaide Addison right across the face. “It was lovely.” The children had already said goodbye to their parents and were waiting in the school getting ready to be put on the buses which would take them to the pier. No parents were allowed in the school, as one child’s crying might cause an eruption of tears. Because of that, it was strangers who tied shoelaces, wiped noses, and placed nametags around each child’s neck. These volunteers got the children ready and then played games with them until the buses arrived. McKenna and Pribby were doing a fine job of keeping their charges happy and distracted until Addison arrived with her doleful face, “all piety and no sense.”
Addison gathered a group of children around her and began singing “For Those in Peril on the Sea” over their heads; she then proceeded to ask God to keep them from being blown up on their journey. She told the children they must pray for their parents every night, for who can say what the German soldiers might do to them. She finished by saying that they should all be good little boys and girls so their mothers and fathers could look down on them from Heaven and be proud of them.
By this time, the children were all crying and wailing, and Pribby was too stunned to move. McKenna was quick. She grabbed Addison’s arm and told her to “SHUT UP.” Adelaide insisted she was speaking the Word of God, but McKenna gave her a look which would have turned the Devil into stone and then slapped her across the face—“nice and sharp, so her head wobbled on her shoulders”—before hauling Addison to the door and shoving her outside. Though she pounded on the door, no one paid any attention to her. (Actually, one person tried to open the door, but Pribby grabbed her around the neck and stopped her.)
The prospect of a fight stopped most of the crying, and soon the buses arrived. McKenna and Pribby stood in the road and waved at the children until the buses were out of sight. It is a day Pribby will never forget, and at that moment she was glad not to have had any children.
Pribby thanks Ashton for answering all her questions. While she is sad that Ashton had some difficult times in her life, she is glad that Ashton has good friends like Sophie and Stark (who sounds like a fine man, even if he is bossy—a common failing in all...
(The entire section is 631 words.)
Part 1, April 26-30 Summary
Adams’ temporary job at the quarry is finished and Kit will now be staying with him for a time. As he writes, the little girl is under the table, whispering. When he asks her what she is whispering, there is a long silence and then she begins again. This time Adams can hear his own name along with other sounds. He tells Ashton this is what generals call a “war of nerves,” and he knows who is going to win.
Kit does not resemble her mother except for her gray eyes and certain look she gets when she is concentrating hard. On the inside, though, she is just like her mother—“fierce in her feelings.” This was true even when Kit was a baby. She would howl until the glass in the windows shook, and when she gripped Adams’ finger in her tiny fist, it turned white. Adams knew nothing about babies, but McKenna made him learn. She felt that he would one day be a father and saw it as her responsibility to make sure he knew more than most fathers. McKenna missed Hellman for herself as well as for her daughter.
Maugery and Adams told Kit that her father is dead, but they did not know what to say about her mother. They finally just told her that McKenna had been sent away and they hoped she would return soon. Kit looked back and forth at both of them, but she did not say anything or ask any questions before going out to sit in the barn. Adams does not know if they did the right thing.
Some days Adams wears himself out with hoping McKenna will come home. Since she left, he has learned that Sir Ambrose Ivers was killed in one of the final bombing raids in London; since McKenna inherits his estate, Sir Ambrose’s lawyers have begun to look for her. It is likely they have more effective means of finding her, so Adams is hopeful that Mr. Dilwyn will receive some word of her or about her soon. What a blessing it would be if McKenna were found.
The Literary Society will be attending the Guernsey Repertory Company’s production of Julius Caesar on Saturday. John Booker will star as Marc Antony and Clovis Fossey will play the role of Caesar. (Isola Pribby has been rehearsing with Fossey and says they shall all be amazed).
The whispering under the table has stopped. Kit is asleep, and it is later than Adams thought.
Markham Reynolds writes a note to Ashton letting her know he has returned. (His entire trip could have been avoided with a simple phone call, but he has finally gotten the...
(The entire section is 516 words.)
Part 1, May 1-3 Summary
Ashton writes a letter to Reynolds after their dinner last night, trying to explain that she did not refuse him; all she asked for was more time. He was busy ranting about Guernsey and Stark and had not really heard what she said. She has only known him two months, and that is not enough time for her to know for certain whether they should spend the rest of their lives together. Ashton explains that she nearly married a man she did not really know, and she will not make the same mistake again.
She reminds Reynolds that she has not been in his home—or even knows where it is, exactly. New York, but on what street? Ashton wonders what color the walls of his home are painted; if he arranges his books alphabetically; if he is neat or messy; whether he prefers cats, dogs, or fish; if he hums; or what he eats for breakfast. This is proof to Ashton that she does not know enough about Reynolds to marry him.
One other piece of news she shares with Reynolds is that Stark is not his rival. Ashton is not now and never has been in love with Sidney Stark, and the same is true for him. Furthermore, she will never marry Stark. Ashton asks Reynolds if he is certain he would not like to marry someone much less stubborn than she.
In a letter to Sophie, Ashton wishes her friend were here and they were still living and working together; she wants to talk to her friend, and Ashton wants Sophie to tell her whether or not she should marry Mark Reynolds.
Last night he asked her to marry him, not on bended knee but with a glorious diamond at a romantic French restaurant. Ashton is not sure if he still wants her to marry her this morning, however, because she refused to give him an unequivocal yes. She tried to explain that she did not know him long enough or well enough and needed more time to think. He would not even listen to her, certain that he was being rejected because of some hidden passion for Stark. (The two men seem obsessed with one another.)
Fortunately the yelling started only after they arrived at Reynolds’ London apartment, as he shouted about Stark and “godforsaken islands” and women who care more about strangers she has never met than the man standing right in front of her. Ashton kept trying to explain and Reynolds kept shouting until she began to cry in frustration. Then Reynolds became so sweet and remorseful that she nearly capitulated and said yes. Nearly. They argued, he...
(The entire section is 804 words.)
Part 1, May 10-13 Summary
Ashton receives a cable from Stark in which he gives her his blessing for a trip to Guernsey. He says it will be good for her and good for a book, though he wonders if Reynolds will let her go. She sends a return cable saying she appreciates the blessing but that Reynolds is in no position to forbid or approve her plans.
Maugery writes in response to a telegram from Ashton and says she is thrilled to learn Ashton will be coming to Guernsey for a visit. She has spread the news as Ashton asked her to do, and the Literary Society members have been thrown into a “whirlwind of excitement.” The members have offered her all manner of things Ashton might need, including room, board, electric clothes pins, and introductions.
Isola Pribby is already working on behalf of the book Ashton will write, despite Maugery’s caution that a book is still just a possibility. Pribby is determined to gather every scrap of information she can, even asking (or perhaps threatening) everyone she knows to send Ashton letters about their Occupation experiences; she is convinced Ashton will need them to convince her publisher to write the book about Guernsey. Ashton may experience a deluge of letters in the next few weeks.
Pribby also went to see Mr. Dilwyn at the bank this afternoon, asking him to rent McKenna’s cottage to Ashton when she comes. It is in a lovely spot, below the Manor House, and small enough to require minimal upkeep while she is visiting. All Mr.; Dilwyn has to do is see to the lease agreement; Pribby will ensure that the cottage is aired and ready for Ashton’s visit. There has not been much success in locating McKenna. There is no record of her having arrived in Germany. The records show she was put on a transport to France with Frankfurt as her intended destination. The investigations will continue, but in the meantime Mr. Dilwyn is eager to rent McKenna’s property to provide income for her daughter.
Sometimes Maugery thinks she and the others have an obligation to contact Kit’s German relatives, but she cannot do it. Though Hellman was a good man who detested what his country was doing, it is certain that there are many Germans who do not feel the same way and believed in the Thousand-Year Reich. The Society members who love Kit could never send her away to a foreign and possibly devastated land even if they could locate her family.
The Society members are the only family Kit has...
(The entire section is 710 words.)
Part 1, May 14 Summary
Isola Pribby writes Ashton to tell her that she is getting McKenna’s cottage ready for her and that she has asked several of her friends from the Market to write their stories for Ashton. (If a Mr. Tatum writes and asks for money in exchange for his story, Ashton should ignore him because “He is a big fat liar.”) In case Ashton would like to know, Pribby describes her first sight of the Germans. She will add some adjectives for Ashton’s sake; however, she usually prefers nothing but the facts.
It was quiet in Guernsey but everyone knew the Germans were there. The day before, planes and ships had unloaded the soldiers. The planes, much lighter now, became almost frolicsome, bobbing and swooping, scaring the cows in the fields. She and McKenna were at Pribby’s house but could not muster the initiative to make her hair tonic as planned. They “just drifted around like a couple of ghouls” until McKenna finally determined that she was not going to just sit and wait for whatever might come. She was going to town to seek out the enemy.
When Pribby rather peevishly asked what she intended to do when she found him, McKenna answered simply that she was going to look at him. She invited Pribby to come with her to go stare, and they did. It is true there were hundreds of German soldiers—and they were all shopping! The men were polite, and one even complimented the women on their beautiful island. Soon they would be in London, he explained, but for now they would enjoy this holiday in the sun. If it were not for the green uniforms, the women might have assumed the men had just gotten off the tour boat. When they arrived at Candie Gardens, however, everything changed “from carnival to nightmare.”
The first thing they noticed was the noise: the loud, steady rhythm of boots tromping on hard stones. Then a column of goose-stepping soldiers turned onto the street. Everything about them was gleaming, including their boots, buttons, and hats. The men did not look at anything or anyone; they simply stared straight ahead of them. This intensity and lack of humanity was more frightening than their guns, knives, or grenades.
Mr. Ferre grabbed Pribby’s arm. He had fought in the last war, and tears were streaming down his face at the sight of these soldiers. Without knowing it, he was wringing Pribby’s arm as he asked how this could be happening. The Germans were a defeated foe, and now they are back....
(The entire section is 804 words.)
Part 1, May 15 Summary
Another Islander, Sally Ann Frobisher, writes Ashton to tell her about how she was “personally humiliated” during the war. She was twelve in 1943, and she had scabies. There was never enough soap in Guernsey to keep anything clean, and everyone had skin diseases of some kind: scabies or pustules or lice. Frobisher had scabies on top of her head (under her hair) and she could not get rid of them. Finally the doctor told her she had to go to the hospital to have her hair shaved and to have the tops of the scabs cut off to allow the pus to drain. She hopes Ashton will never know the “shame of a seeping scalp. Frobisher wished she would die.
At the hospital she made a new friend, Elizabeth McKenna, who helped the nurses on Frobisher’s floor. While all the nurses were kind, McKenna was kind and funny, and it was that humor which helped the young girl through her most difficult time. McKenna was the one who cut the scabs; though it was painful, she made the experience bearable for Frobisher. It hurt, but McKenna turned the entire process into a game and soon it was finished.
Later that evening McKenna brought the girl one of her own silk scarves to wrap around her head as a turban. McKenna gave her a mirror; to Frobisher the scarf was lovely, but as always her nose seemed too big for her face and she asked McKenna if she would ever be pretty. When Frobisher had asked her mother that question, her mother told her she had no patience for such superficial nonsense and that “beauty was only skin-deep.” McKenna was different. She looked at the girl and, after careful consideration, declared that with a little more time she would be a “stunner.” She has good bones and an elegant nose, and those are the things that count.
Frobisher says she has not yet grown into her nose, but she is confident she will because Miss McKenna said so. Another story about the Occupation concerns her Aunt Letty. She used to have a big old gloomy house out on the cliffs. The Germans said it interfered with their gun practice so they blew it up. Now Aunt Letty lives with them.
Micah Daniels writes to Ashton about something he calls his Vega box. The Vega was a Red Cross ship which first came to Guernsey on December 27, 1944, and brought food to them. It would return five more times before the war was over, and the supplies it brought saved the Islanders’ lives as there was nothing left for...
(The entire section is 718 words.)
Part 1, May 16 Summary
John Booker writes a letter to Ashton explaining that he gets too nervous when he talks to people, but he is willing to tell his story in writing. He was actually not in Guernsey during the war; he was in Neuengamme Concentration Camp in Germany.
Ashton has already heard that Booker pretended to be Lord Tobias for the first three years of the Occupation. Peter Jenkins’s daughter, Lisa, was dating any German soldiers who would give her stockings or lipsticks until she met Sergeant Willy Gurtz, “a mean little runt.” The two of them made a despicable pair, and Lisa is the one who turned Booker in to the Commandant.
One day Lisa was getting her hair done in a beauty parlor and was reading an old magazine; she saw a photo of the real Lord Tobias Penn-Piers. Though Lisa is not particularly intelligent, even she could figure out that Booker was a fake. She ran straight to Gurtz who went straight to the Commandant.
Booker’s charade made the Germans feel like fools, as they had been fawning to a mere servant; they got their revenge by sending him away to the camp. Booker did not think he would live to the end of his first week in Neuengamme. The guards sent him out to clear the unexploded bombs after air raids or be shot for refusing; it was a miracle that he was alive after such a task. The truth is that he and the others were not really alive. They were not dead, but they were certainly not alive, either. For a few minutes each day, he was able to feel alive, lying on his bunk and thinking about small things he liked, such as bicycling downhill. Anything more than that was more than he could stand.
It was only a year of his life, but it felt like thirty. In April, 1945, the Commandant chose any men who could still work and sent them to Belsen; they traveled several days by train without food, water, or blankets but were glad they did not have to walk. The men were all given shovels so that they could dig holes to bury the dead. As he walked through the camp, Booker was afraid he had lost his mind because even the living looked like corpses. The Russians were approaching from the east and the Allies were coming from the west; the Germans were terrified and needed to hide the corpses before they arrived.
“The crematorium could not burn the bodies fast enough,” so Booker and the other men dug trenches and dragged bodies to the edge and pushed them in. The prisoners’ band was forced to...
(The entire section is 792 words.)
Part 1, May 19-20 Summary
Juliet Ashton writes to Dawsey Adams and says she will finally be arriving the day after tomorrow. She admits she is too afraid to fly, even with the liquid courage of gin, so she will be arriving on the evening mail boat. She asks him to give Isola Pribby a message for her: She does not own a hat with a veil, and lilies make her sneeze, so she cannot carry them in a bouquet, but she does have a red wool cape and will be wearing it when she arrives.
She tells Adams he could not do one thing more than he and the others have already done to make her feel welcome. It is difficult for her to believe that she is actually going to meet all of her Guernsey friends at last.
Adams signs his letter with the word “yours”; Ashton signs hers “yours ever.”
The day before she leaves for Guernsey, Markham Reynolds writes a letter to Juliet Ashton, the woman he has asked to marry him. He reminds her that she asked him to give her some time, and he has done so. She also asked him not to talk about marriage, and he has not done so. Now she tells him she will be going to “bloody Guernsey” and cannot even tell him how long she will be gone—a week, a month, or forever. He wonders if she really thinks he is simply going to do nothing and let her go.
Reynolds tells Ashton she is being ridiculous, and anyone with any brains at all can see she is just trying to run away from him and this situation. What no one can understand is why she feels the need to leave. Reynolds is convinced that he and Ashton would make a perfect match: She makes him happy, she never bores him, and she is interested in the things in which he is interested. He hopes the same is true for her. In his view, the two of them belong together. He is well aware how much Ashton hates it when he tells her he knows what is best for her; however, in this case, he is sure he does.
By all that is holy, Reynolds asks Ashton to forget about that awful island and stay here to marry him. He promises to take her there on their honeymoon, but only if she insists.
Ashton replies that Reynolds is probably right, but she is going to Guernsey tomorrow, and there is nothing he can do to stop her. She wishes she could give him the answer he wants, but she cannot. She thanks him for the roses.
He concedes and asks if she wants him to drive her to Weymouth, where she will catch the boat. She asks if he will lecture her,...
(The entire section is 514 words.)
Part 2, May 22 Summary
Ashton writes Stark about arriving in Guernsey, and she has so much to tell him—a good sign for a writer. The voyage was horrible; the boat creaked and groaned as if it would fall apart at any moment. She almost wished it would do so, just to alleviate her misery; however, she wanted to see Guernsey before she died. As soon as the island was within sight, the sun broke out from behind the clouds, the cliffs shimmered silver, and she forgot all about the miserable part of the journey.
Her heart was racing as she saw St. Peter Port. She tried to tell herself it was simply the scenery, but she knew better. The thought of all the people she had come to know through her correspondence was thrilling, and they were all waiting to meet her. In the past few years, Ashton has gotten “better at writing than living.” As the pier grew closer, she realized she is charming and witty on paper, but that is simply a trick she has learned and has nothing to do with her. Her cowardly impulse was to throw her red cape into the sea and pretend to be someone else.
Once the mail boat drew up to the pier, Ashton saw the faces of the people who were waiting, and then there was no turning back. She recognized them from their letters. Isola Pribby was wearing a mad hat, purple shawl, and glittering brooch—and she was looking in the completely wrong direction. (Ashton loved her immediately.) Next to her stood Ramsey and his gangly grandson Eli; she waved at the boy, and he beamed at her and nudged his grandfather. Then she got lost in the crowd pushing its way down the gangplank.
Pribby found her first and swept her up in a hug which took Ashton off her feet. All her nervousness—as well as her breath—was squeezed out of her in that moment. The others then approached with less enthusiasm but just as much warmth. Ramsey was too thin, and he looked both grave and welcoming. Eli hoisted Kit to his shoulders and came to meet her, but the little girl was not in the least inclined to friendliness. Eli presented Ashton with a mouse carved from walnut, and she kissed the boy on the cheek, despite the forbidding glare of the four-year-old on his shoulders.
Next Dawsey Adams held out his hands to Ashton and presented her with a bouquet of carnations from Booker, who could not be here. Adams is rather dark and watchful, but when he smiles, everything changes. He has the “sweetest smile she has ever seen,” and she believes...
(The entire section is 796 words.)
Part 2, May 24-27 Summary
Ashton writes Sophie that she resisted Reynolds’ persistent efforts to get her to marry him. Only as she saw him standing on the pier when the mail boat pulled away did she wonder if she was a “complete idiot,” as he told her. Many women are eager to get him, and perhaps she will spend the rest of her life in a steady decline, wandering the streets like a vagabond and bragging to strangers that she had once been nearly engaged to Markham Reynolds, the publishing tycoon. They will shake their heads and think she is crazy but harmless.
Guernsey is beautiful, and her new friends have welcomed her warmly. Until this moment, Ashton has not regretted her decision. Now she will run through the field of wildflowers right outside her door and then lie in the meadow, looking at the sky and breathing in the warm scent of the grass, pretending that Reynolds does not exist. She finishes this letter hours later, and she has forgotten all about him.
Ashton writes Stark more about her life in Guernsey. McKenna’s cottage is lovely and spacious with windows everywhere so the sea air can blow through every room. Her writing table faces one of the windows, and it is wonderful, except for the constant temptation to go outside. Everything about the sky and the sea is constantly changing, and she is afraid she will miss something.
She was already fascinated with Elizabeth McKenna, and seeing her possessions has only increased Ashton's interest. The German soldiers gave her six hours to move her belongings to the cottage; she brought her cooking utensils, art supplies, a phonograph, some records, and armloads of books. In all the tiny places, McKenna placed bits of the outdoors, such as bird feathers, dried grasses, eggshells, and the skeleton of, perhaps, a bat. McKenna was “a noticer,” like Ashton, and these are all things others would have stepped on or overlooked. McKenna also brought a portrait of herself that Sir Ambrose painted of her when she was about eight years old; judging from her expression in the painting, she obviously did not like having to sit still. Glares must be genetic “because she and Kit have identical ones.”
The Manor House is just up the drive. It is lovely, made of blue-gray stone; a turret faces the sea. Most of the giant old trees were cut down to use for firewood during the Occupation, but Mr. Dilwyn has asked Ramsey and Eli to plant new ones. The lush, green lawn is finally...
(The entire section is 787 words.)
Part 2, May 30-31 Summary
Ashton writes Stark about her first meeting at the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. There was an overflow crowd, and the speaker was a new member, Jonas Skeeter, who spoke about The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He strode angrily to the front of the room and pronounced that he did not want to be here and had only read this ridiculous book because his oldest, dearest, former friend, Woodrow Cutter, had shamed him into it. Cutter was shocked by the announcement.
Skeeter explained that he had been working on his farm when Cutter arrived with the book and said he would like his friend to read it; he called the book profound. When Skeeter said he had no time to be profound, Cutter said that if he read it, they would have more fun while drinking beer at the tavern. This hurt Skeeter’s feelings; he believed Cutter was insulting him for being less conversational than he was.
Cutter explained that this book was written by a Roman emperor and a mighty warrior who was fighting for his life against barbarians but took the time to write down his thoughts. He had “long, long thoughts,” and Cutter says they could both use some of those. Skeeter “pushed down his hurt” and took the book, but he came here tonight to scold his friend for putting a book above his childhood friend.
Despite that, Skeeter did read the book and believes that Marcus Aurelius was an “old woman,” constantly “taking his mind’s temperature” and wondering whether what he had done was right or wrong. He turned every little thought into a sermon and probably could not even take a—the women were scandalized and stopped him. When Cutter stood up, the room grew silent and watched the two men meet in the middle. They clapped each other on the back and left arm in arm for Crazy Ida’s. Ashton hopes that is a pub, not a woman. Adams was the only one who found the meeting humorous. Though he is too polite to laugh out loud, she could see his shoulders shaking. Ashton gathered that this was a satisfying but by no means extraordinary evening for the Literary Society.
The next day, Ashton sends Stark a letter which she found slipped under her door this morning. It is from Henry A. Toussant, a diminutive man who is a champion whistler; he has actually won prizes for whistling. Toussant used his skill to confound the enemy during the Occupation.
After his mother was asleep,...
(The entire section is 798 words.)
Part 2, June 6-10 Summary
Ashton writes Stark the morning after he called her from London. She was surprised but pleased to know he is no longer five oceans away from her. Now that he is just across the Channel, she hopes he will come visit as soon as possible.
Pribby has brought seven people to Ashton to tell her their Occupation stories, and she has accumulated a stack of interview notes. That is all they are for now, and she does not yet know if a book is possible or what form it should take if she writes it.
Kit has begun spending a few mornings each week at Ashton’s, playing relatively quietly with rocks and shells while Ashton works. Then they take a picnic lunch down to the beach; if it is foggy, they play games inside. Ashton finds herself thinking about many things now that she is spending so much time with a child. She tries hard, without much success, to remember her parents’ views of child-rearing. Kit does not seem to suffer any ill effects for having been raised in such a patchwork way, and Maugery says McKenna’s daughter could never be anything but bold and fearless.
When Maugery’s son Ian was young, he decided to run away rather than go to boarding school in England. He consulted McKenna, and she persuaded him to buy her boat to make his grand escape. She had no boat, but she did not tell Ian that; instead, she built one herself in three days. On the appointed day of Ian's departure, they hauled it to the beach, and Ian began to row away as she and Jane waved goodbye with their hankies. About half a mile out, the boat began to sink quickly, and McKenna swam out to get him. She dragged the wreckage to shore and brought Ian to Sir Ambrose’s to dry off; later she told him they would just have to steal a boat for his next attempt. Ian went home and told his mother that he thought going to boarding school might be fine after all.
Ashton knows Stark is busy but wonders if he could spare a moment to find her a book of paper dolls—one full of glamorous evening gowns. Kit pats Ashton’s knee when the little girl passes by, so Kit must be growing fond of her.
A few days later, Ashton writes Stark to thank him for the package his new secretary sent: two books of glorious paper dolls. The books are Greta Garbo and Gone with the Wind, and they include pages of lovely gowns, boas, hats, and furs. Billee Bee Jones (Ashton wonders if that is the secretary's real name) also sent a...
(The entire section is 553 words.)
Part 2, June 12 Summary
A letter addressed to any member of a Book Society on Guernsey arrived on June 12, 1946, and was delivered to Eben Ramsey two days later. It is a letter from Remy Giraud, Elizabeth McKenna’s friend, and she is sad to write that McKenna was executed in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp in March of 1945. Giraud is writing because she is afraid McKenna’s friends would never hear of her imprisonment and death.
McKenna spoke often of her friends from the Literary Society and cherished them as her family. She was thankful and at peace knowing her daughter was in their care. Giraud is writing for Kit and those caring for her, so that they will know about the strength McKenna demonstrated for others while in the camp, as well as her ability to help her fellow prisoners forget, for a short time, where they were.
Giraud is in a hospice in Normandy, and one of the nuns is helping her write this letter because her English is still poor. Twenty-four years old, she was caught by the Gestapo two years ago with a packet of forged ration cards. After she was questioned and beaten, Giraud was sent to Ravensbrück, and it was in Block Eleven that she met McKenna.
They met one night when McKenna came to her and quietly called her by name, saying she had something to show her. Though she did not understand everything McKenna said, Giraud followed her to the back of the barracks. They climbed through a broken window and ran to a place where they watched a sky which appeared to be on fire, full of red and purple clouds changing shapes and shades, lit from below with gold. They watched silently, hand in hand, until it got dark.
Block Eleven imprisoned nearly four hundred women, and roll call was held twice a day, at 5:30 a.m. and in the evening when they finished their work. Their beds were wooden shelves with straw pallets (sour-smelling and crawling with lice and fleas) on which to sleep. Large, yellow rats ran over their feet at night; however, since the overseers detested the rats and the stench, the women were not too bothered by their guards. McKenna told Giraud about Guernsey and the book club. Though they were in a horrible place of sickness and filth, when McKenna spoke Giraud could smell the fresh sea air and the fruit ripening in the sun.
The women feared getting sick, for they knew once their usefulness to the Germans was over, they would be put to death. They walked to work early every morning...
(The entire section is 790 words.)
Part 2, June 16-21 Summary
Amelia Maugery writes to Remy Giraud, thanking her for her kindness in writing the letter which explained Elizabeth McKenna’s last days and death. She knows it could not have been an easy task for the young woman, as it undoubtedly dredged up her own horrible memories of the war. While she and the other Literary Society members have been praying and hoping for McKenna’s return, they are glad to know the truth rather than live in a state of perpetual uncertainty. They are all thankful that their friend had a friend like Giraud.
Maugery asks if she and Dawsey Adams can come visit her in the hospice in France; they know it might be disturbing to her, but they would very much like to see her. They have an idea to propose. It is her decision, of course. Maugery sends many blessings to Giraud for her kindness and courage.
Ashton writes to Stark in response to his strong reaction to her news about how Elizabeth McKenna died. Although it seems odd to mourn for someone she has never met, Ashton does. She feels McKenna’s presence, not only in her cottage but in every Society member’s home in which McKenna had spent so much of her time. Everyone had always spoken of McKenna in the present tense. (They still do.) Ashton had convinced herself that she would return because Ashton wanted so badly to meet her.
It is even worse for the others, those who know the true extent of their loss. Adams and Maugery are planning a trip to visit Remy Giraud after reading that she and McKenna used to dream about living in the cottage in Guernsey and raising Kit together. While they are gone, Ashton will watch Kit, who is now officially an orphan.
Ashton writes an apology to Reynolds for their phone conversation last night. It is true that she does not want him to come visit her this weekend, but it does not have anything to do with him. All of her new friends are having a difficult time accepting the news of their friend’s death. While he may not see how that news affects his visiting this weekend, she feels as if she is in mourning, too, and hopes he understands a little better why he should not come.
Adams writes to Ashton while he is in France with Maugery to visit Remy Giraud. They have just arrived, and Maugery needs to rest for a night after a “direful journey” across Normandy. They saw devastating damage from the war, and it makes Adams much more aware of how fortunate they...
(The entire section is 605 words.)
Part 2, June 23 Summary
Amelia Maugery writes to Juliet Ashton after meeting Remy Giraud at the hospice in France. While she felt as if she could not bear to meet Giraud, Adams was confident and calmly placed some chairs under a shade tree and asked the nurse for tea. Maugery so wanted McKenna’s friend to like them, but she was worried about Giraud’s fragile condition and the warnings that talking about Ravensbrück might be upsetting to the patient.
Giraud is very small and certainly too thin. Her dark, curly hair is close-cropped, and her eyes are huge and haunting. She was once a beautiful young lady, but now “she is like glass.” Though she tried to keep her hands still in her lap, they trembled. Giraud tried to welcome Maugery and Adams warmly, but she was quite reserved until they began talking about Kit. Her first question was whether or not Kit left the Island and is living with Sir Ambrose.
Adams told her Sir Ambrose is dead and explained how the members of the group are now raising Kit. He showed her a picture of Ashton and Kit (which he carries with him), and Giraud smiled to see how much Kit resembles her mother. When she asked if Kit is strong, Maugery thought about McKenna and could not speak, but Adams assured Giraud that Kit is very strong and has a passion for ferrets, which made Giraud smile.
Maugery explains that Giraud is alone, as her father died in 1943 before the war, and her mother died in Auschwitz after getting caught harboring enemies of the German government. Her two brothers are missing, though Giraud thought she saw one of them in a German train station when she was on her way to Ravensbrück. She screamed his name, but he did not turn around. Giraud believes her brothers, like her parents, are probably dead. Maugery is glad Adams was brave enough to ask these questions, for Giraud seemed somehow relieved to speak about her family.
Finally Maugery introduced the idea of having Giraud come to stay awhile with her in Guernsey. The girl grew reserved again and said she will be leaving the hospice soon. The French government has begun offering pensions to all concentration camp survivors for time lost, for permanent injuries, and for the recognition of suffering. Small stipends also will be given to any survivors who wish to continue their education, and the French Resistance Association will help Giraud pay her rent; she plans to go to Paris and try to get an apprenticeship in a bakery....
(The entire section is 538 words.)
Part 2, June 28 Summary
In a letter to Sidney Stark, Juliet Ashton tells him the gift he sent Kit was positively inspired. The satin tap shoes covered with sequins are perfect for a four-year-old girl.
Kit has been staying with Ashton since Maugery and Adams returned from France. Maugery has been tired ever since she got home, and it just seems best for Kit to stay with Ashton, especially if Remy Giraud decides to come stay with Maugery once she leaves the hospice. Ashton is thankful that Kit seems to like the idea, as well.
Adams told Kit that her mother is dead, and Ashton has no idea how Kit feels about that; the girl has not said anything about it, and Ashton will never ask. She tries not to be too attentive or make her special treats, something people did for Ashton after her parents died. She was so angry at those who thought that a giant piece of cake or other treat would somehow compensate for her losing her parents. Ashton was a “wretched twelve-year-old” at the time; Kit is only four and would probably really enjoy some extra cake, but Ashton refrains nevertheless.
Ashton tells Stark she is having some trouble with her book. Although she has collected plenty of data and personal interviews to begin writing about the Occupation in Guernsey, she has no idea how to compile them into an effective and satisfying book. A straight chronology, though sensible, would be too tedious, and she does not have a better idea. She offers to send all her pages to him; perhaps a better eye and a more impersonal examination would help her get more focused. If Stark is not too overwhelmed with the work he missed while he was in Australia, she wonders if he would have time to look over her work. If not, he should not worry. Ashton is still working and hopes a brilliant inspiration might come to her.
In a postscript, she thanks Stark for sending her the lovely newspaper clipping of Markham Reynolds dancing with Ursula Fent. If he was hoping to incite some kind of jealous rage, he failed—especially since Reynolds has already called and complained to her that Fent has been following him around “like a lovesick bloodhound.” She tells Stark again that he and Reynolds have something in common. Both of them seem to want her to be miserable. She suggests that perhaps they should start a club.
(The entire section is 408 words.)
Part 2, July 1 Summary
Sidney Stark writes a reply to Juliet Ashton’s request for him to help her with her book. He tells her there will be no need to send him any of her research, her manuscript, or her interview notes, for he would like to make a trip to Guernsey. He wonders if this weekend would suit her.
Stark would like to see Ashton, of course, but he also would like to meet Kit and Guernsey—all in that order. He certainly does not want to read her work as she nervously paces back and forth in front of him, so when he leaves Guernsey, he will take her manuscript with him back to London where he can read it in peace.
He writes that he will arrive on Friday afternoon via the five o’clock plane and intends to stay until Monday evening. Stark asks if she would be willing to reserve a hotel room for him and wonders if she also can arrange a small dinner party while he is there. He would very much like to meet all the friends she has written about so extensively in her letters to him: Eben Ramsey, Isola Pribby, Dawsey Adams, and Amelia Maugery. Stark will bring the wine.
Ashton is thrilled to learn that Stark is coming for a visit; however, she will not be booking him a room at the local inn. Pribby has hinted at bedbugs and insists that Stark stay with her. Ashton is supposed to find out if Stark is likely to be bothered by noises at dawn, as that is when Ariel, her goat, wakes up. (Zenobia, her parrot, is a late sleeper.) Adams and Ashton will be taking Adams’ cart to meet him at the airfield Friday evening. She wants Friday to arrive quickly.
On Friday just before dawn, Isola Pribby leaves a note under Ashton’s door. She apologizes to Ashton that she does not have time to stop and visit, as she has to hurry to her market stall. Pribby is glad that Ashton’s friend will be coming for a visit and staying with her. In preparation for Stark's visit, Pribby has placed sprigs of lavender on his sheets. She also wonders if there is any special elixir which Ashton would like her to slip into his coffee. If there is, Ashton should come by Pribby’s stall in the market; if Ashton gives Pribby a nod, Pribby will know which potion she means.
(The entire section is 412 words.)
Part 2, July 6 Summary
Stark writes a letter to his sister Sophie to tell her that he is finally on Guernsey, visiting Ashton. He is now prepared to tell her a few of the dozen things she wanted him to find out for her.
First, it appears that Kit loves Ashton as they do. The girl is lively and reservedly affectionate, which is not as contradictory as it sounds. When she is with one of her adoptive Literary Society parents, Kit is quick to smile. She is also adorable, and Stark has an almost overwhelming urge to cuddle her, though he knows it would be "an affront to her dignity” and is not brave enough to try it. Her stare is wilting when she does not like someone, but Pribby says Kit only uses it on Mr. Smythe, who beats his dog, and Mrs. Guilbert, who called Ashton nosy and told her she ought to go back to London where she belongs.
Adams came by Ashton’s cottage to pick up Kit so that they could watch Ramsey’s fishing boat come in. Kit said goodbye and rushed out the door. A moment later, she rushed back in, gave Ashton a quaint little kiss, and then flew back out the door. Ashton looked both stunned and pleased, as happy as Stark has ever seen her.
He knows that Sophie thought Ashton seemed tired and frazzled when she last saw her, but the book tour she was on was harrowing. Now she looks healthy and seems to have regained her usual zest for life. In fact, he wonders if Ashton will ever be content to live in London again. The sea air, sunshine, ocean, wildflowers, and mostly the people are a strong seduction for life away from the city. Stark feels some of that himself. Guernsey is a welcoming place, and Pribby is exactly the kind of gracious hostess one wishes for but rarely finds on a visit to the country. She got him up early to help make her elixirs; all their work was done with Zenobia the parrot sitting on his shoulder.
He has conducted a thorough inspection of Adams, as Sophie requested, and he likes what he sees. Adams is quiet, trustworthy, and capable; he also has a sense of humor. In fact, he is everything all the other men Ashton has dated were not. Adams does not say much, but when he walks into a room, everyone seems to breathe a sigh of relief. Ashton seems rather nervous around him, but she has always been a bit clumsy, so that may not mean anything. Adams watches her with “dark, steady eyes” until she looks at him, and then he turns away quickly.
Without question, Adams is...
(The entire section is 804 words.)
Part 2, July 7-8 Summary
Ashton writes to her friend Sophie and tells her there is no need to worry about her brother or his leg. Stark is tanned and fit, without any noticeable limp. She and Stark even threw his cane into the ocean. He looks wonderful.
She hosted a small dinner party for Stark and cooked the entire meal herself. Will Thisbee gave her a cookbook designed for beginners, and it contained many useful hints, such as the reminder to break the shells before adding eggs to any recipe. The food was even edible.
Stark is enjoying his stay at Pribby’s house. The two of them stayed up late last night, talking. Pribby, who is never subtle, asked Stark if he and Ashton are engaged to be married. If not, she wanted to know why, for she said it was obvious to everyone that they “doted on one another.” Stark told her that he has, indeed, doted on Ashton ever since he met her; however, they can never marry because Stark is a homosexual. Stark told Ashton later that Isola Pribby did not blink or gasp or faint. She simply asked if Ashton knows; when he told her Ashton has always known, Pribby swooped down on him, kissed his forehead, and promised never to tell his secret. Then she sat down and wanted to discuss Oscar Wilde plays with him. Ashton wishes she could have been there to see that.
She and Stark are about to go shopping for a suitable hostess gift for Pribby. Ashton suggests a colorful shawl, but Stark wants to give her a cuckoo clock. In a postscript, Ashton explains that Reynolds calls rather than write to her. Last week, though their connection was bad, she knows he was telling her to come home and marry him; Ashton politely declined. It was not nearly as upsetting as it might have been a month ago.
Pribby writes Stark a letter to tell him he is a very nice house guest. She likes him and so does Zenobia, her parrot, or he would not have cuddled on Stark's shoulder for so long. She is glad he stayed up to talk with her and says she is going to the manor to find the book he recommended. Pribby wonders why Ashton and Maugery never mentioned Jane Austen to her.
She hopes Stark will visit Guernsey again; to assuage her loneliness, Pribby invited Adams and Maugery to tea yesterday. When Maugery said she was sure Stark and Ashton were going to marry, Pribby kept her composure and said nothing, as she promised.
Pribby likes her cuckoo clock. It is cheery, and she often runs into the kitchen to...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Part 2, July 9-15 Summary
Ashton writes Stark to thank him for coming to Guernsey, for now he knows all her friends and they know him. She is particularly pleased that Stark enjoyed spending time with Kit; however, she regrets to tell him that much of Kit’s fondness for him is likely due to the book he brought her. Ashton is afraid that Adams was not at his best while Stark was here; he seemed more quiet than usual at her dinner party. It may have been her soup, but she thinks it is more likely that Adams was preoccupied with Giraud. He is convinced she will not get well until she comes to Guernsey to recuperate.
Ashton is glad that Stark took her unfinished manuscript with him; while she knows something is wrong with it, she has no idea what it is. She also wonders what he said to Pribby that got her so upset. Yesterday she stopped at the cottage on her way to get Pride and Prejudice from the manor house and berated Ashton for never telling her about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Pribby had no idea that this kind of love story had been written—as compared to her usual reading about love filled with anguish and death—and wonders what else everyone has been keeping from her.
After apologizing for the oversight, Ashton told her Stark is right, and Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest love stories ever written, though Pribby might actually die of suspense before she finished reading it. Pribby told her that Zenobia has not been eating properly since Stark left.
Stark replies and says Ashton is correct about her writing, for a collection of anecdotes does not make a book. What her book needs is a center, one person’s voice to tell the stories happening around her. As it is now, the facts are interesting but just seem like randomly placed bits of information. This would be a painful letter for him to write if Ashton did not already have the core, though she does not know it yet. He is referring to Elizabeth McKenna.
He wonders why Ashton has not noticed that everyone she has interviewed eventually talks about McKenna. She painted Booker’s portrait and saved his life; she made up the lie which initiated the Literary Society and then made it a reality; she was not a native of Guernsey but adapted to it like a native. without complaint; she went to Ravensbrück for harboring a slave worker; and she died a heroic death. Stark asks Ashton how a girl, an art student who never had a job, could...
(The entire section is 802 words.)
Part 2, July 17 Summary
While McKenna did not keep a diary, Ashton writes Stark, she drew during the Occupation until she ran out of paper and pencils. Ashton found some of McKenna’s sketches stuffed into a large art folio, including many quick sketches of her friends which seem like marvelous portraits to Ashton. While she was looking at them one day, Maugery stopped for a visit, and they discovered several large sheets of paper covered with sketches of Kit. McKenna captured many of the little things all babies do, such as being delighted at their own spit bubbles or hypnotized by their own toes. Though other mothers must look at their children with such an intense focus, McKenna immortalized it on paper.
They also found a sketch of a strong man who seems delighted to be looking at the artist. Ashton knew at once that this was Christian Hellman; he and Kit have identical cowlicks. Maugery has never talked about Hellman, so Ashton asked her if she had liked him. From the beginning, Maugery was not in favor of the relationship. It seemed insane to her that McKenna had chosen one of the enemy, and she was frightened for McKenna, who was too trusting. Maugery always feared Hellman would betray them all and was very stern with McKenna when she told her she should end the relationship.
McKenna said nothing, just stuck out her chin; however, the next day Hellman came to visit Maugery. She was appalled to see a giant German officer standing at her door, certain her house was about to be requisitioned. As she began to protest, Hellman held out a bunch of flowers, rather limp from being clutched so tightly. He looked quite nervous, so Maugery stopped scolding him and asked his name. He blushed as he told her, which made her suspect his motivation for the visit. She then asked his purpose in visiting her. He blushed even more and quietly said he had come to announce his intentions.
Maugery did not understand until he sat, perched on the edge of a chair in her drawing room, and told her that he intended to return to Guernsey as soon as the war ended. He planned to marry McKenna, raise freesias, read books, and forget about the war. By the time he finished, Maugery was a bit in love with him herself. Maugery was nearly in tears when she finished this story, so they put the sketches away and had some tea. Kit soon joined them, wanting to glue a shattered gull’s egg back together, and they were distracted.
Yesterday Will Thisbee...
(The entire section is 772 words.)
Part 2, July 19 Summary
Ashton writes Stark that she is now finding stories about McKenna everywhere, not just among the Literary Society members. This afternoon, Ashton and Kit had walked up to the churchyard. Kit was playing among the tombstones, and Ashton was lying flat on a tabletop tombstone (with four sturdy legs), sunning herself, when the old vicar who kept up the cemetery grounds approached. He told Ashton that she reminded him of McKenna, for she also used to sun herself on this very spot and got “brown as a walnut.”
This caught Ashton by surprise, and she immediately asked the old man if he had known McKenna well. He said he did not know her well, but McKenna and her friend Jane, Ramsey’s daughter, used to come here and have picnics on this tombstone. He talked about the two girls always being up to some kind of mischief; one time they tried to conjure a ghost and frightened the vicar’s wife nearly to death. The old man looked over at Kit and said he knew that must be McKenna’s daughter with Captain Hellman.
Ashton quickly asked him about Hellman, as well, wondering if he liked the man. With a glare, he began to scold Ashton, saying Hellman was a fine man even though he was a German, and she should not hold her parentage against the little girl. Ashton assured him that she loves Kit, and he wagged a finger at her when he told her that she had better “learn the truth of certain matters” before she tries to write a book about the Occupation. While he hated the Occupation and many of the Germans and their arrogant ways, not all of them were like that. Hellman was not like that.
One day McKenna and Hellman were walking through the churchyard and found the vicar trying to dig a grave in the most frigid conditions; the ground was frozen hard. Hellman picked up the shovel and quickly finished the job. The next day, McKenna came back with a thermos full of hot coffee for him—real coffee made from real beans which Hellman had brought her. She also brought the vicar one of Hellman’s worn sweaters.
Over the five years of the Occupation, the old man met many kind German soldiers, and he even found himself feeling sorry for some of them, especially at the end of the war. They were stuck here, knowing their families were being bombed and possibly killed back home. To the vicar, it did not matter then who started the war.
Some soldiers riding guard on the back of potato trucks would pretend not to...
(The entire section is 665 words.)
Part 2, July 22-23 Summary
Ashton tells Sophie to burn this letter after reading it, for it should not end up among Sophie’s papers one day. She reminds her friend that she has already told her about Dawsey Adams: that he was the first person from Guernsey to write her, that he adores Charles Lamb, that he is helping to raise Kit, and Kit adores him. What she has not told her is that the first time she met Adams, when he held out both of his hands to greet her at the bottom of the gangplank, she “felt an unaccountable jolt of excitement.” Adams is so undemonstrative that Ashton has no idea if he felt anything, so she has spent the past two months trying to act as casual and normal as possible—until tonight.
Adams came over to borrow a suitcase for his trip to France to bring Remy Giraud back to Guernsey. Kit was already asleep, so they put the suitcase in Adams' cart and walked up to the headlands. The sky was beautiful with the moon just coming up, the sea was quiet for once, and there was no wind. The silence was amazing, and Ashton realized this was exactly how silent Adams was as he walked beside her. She had never been this close to him before, so she took advantage of this opportunity to examine his hands and wrists. She grew light-headed and a little queasy at the thought of touching them, and suddenly Adams turned to her.
His dark eyes were watching her intently, as if waiting for something. Whatever might have happened next was interrupted by the arrival of the local taxi pulling up to them and the passenger calling out “Surprise, darling!” to her. It was Markham Reynolds, in all his sartorial and well-groomed splendor. If she could have, Ashton would have killed him at that moment.
Instead, she had no choice but to greet him, and when Reynolds kissed her, all she could think was please do not do this in front of Adams. Reynolds handed her a bouquet of roses and turned to Adams with his “steely smile.” Ashton introduced the men, wishing she were anywhere but here, and watched silently as the men shook hands. Adams then shook Ashton’s hand, thanked her for the suitcase, and rode off in his cart. He did not look back.
Ashton wanted to cry, but she invited Reynolds inside and tried to act as if his arrival were a welcome surprise. All the commotion had wakened Kit. She looked at Reynolds suspiciously and asked where Adams went because he had not kissed her goodnight. (Me neither, Ashton...
(The entire section is 722 words.)
Part 2, July 24 Summary
Ashton asks her friend Sophie to burn this letter after reading, along with her last one. She has finally and conclusively refused Reynolds’ marriage proposal, and her “elation is indecent.” If Ashton were a properly trained lady, she would sit in the dark and brood—but she could not. Today she is free, and today she got out of bed with great energy. She spent the morning running races in the pasture with Kit. Kit won, but that is because she cheats. Today has been a good day, but yesterday was “a horror.”
Her initial feelings about Reynolds’ arrival were bad, but the next morning they were even worse. Radiating confidence, he appeared at her house at seven o’clock, certain they would be planning their wedding by noon. Reynolds was interested in nothing about Guernsey—the Occupation, her friends, or anything she had been doing since she left London. He did not ask one question about any of it, and he was surprised when Kit came down for breakfast. (Her presence must not have registered with him last night.)
After a short conversation about dogs, it became clear Reynolds was simply waiting for Kit to leave. In his experience, nannies probably came to gather the children before they could annoy their parents too much; Ashton tried to ignore his irritation and made Kit’s breakfast as usual, but his displeasure was palpable. Finally Kit went outside to play, and the moment the door closed behind her, Reynolds commented that Ashton’s new friends must be quite clever because they had already managed to shift their responsibilities to her. He shook his head in pity at her gullibility. Ashton just stared at him.
Reynolds continued, saying he thinks Kit is cute, but Ashton must be firm with her: Give the girl a nice doll and send her away before Kit assumes Ashton will be taking care of her for the rest of her life. This made Ashton so angry she could not speak; though she gripped Kit’s breakfast bowl with white knuckles, she managed not to throw it at him—but it was close. When she could finally speak again, she whispered for him to get out and said that she never wanted to see him again. He had no idea what she was talking about or why she would send him away, so Ashton explained.
She told him with great certainty that she would never marry anyone who did not love Kit, Guernsey, and Charles Lamb. Reynolds was confused and wanted to know what Lamb had to do with anything, but Ashton...
(The entire section is 638 words.)
Part 2, July 27-29 Summary
In a letter to Stark, Ashton says she knew McKenna had been arrested for harboring a Todt worker; however, until a few days ago, she had not known McKenna had an accomplice. Ramsey casually mentioned Peter Sawyer, someone who had been arrested with McKenna. Sawyer is now living in a nursing home, and when Ashton called him, he said he would be happy to see her—especially if she brought him some brandy. Sawyer is in a wheelchair; when they finally went outside to sit under an arbor, Sawyer sipped his brandy while he talked. This was one time Ashton took notes, for she did not want to miss a word of his story.
Sawyer was already in a wheelchair but still living in his home when he found a sixteen-year-old Polish boy named Lud Jaruzki, a Todt worker. At night, many of these workers were allowed out of their pens so that they could scrounge for food; they were expected to return to work the next morning. If they failed to show up, a hunt ensued. This was one way the Germans could make sure the workers did not starve without wasting many of their own precious resources on them.
Nearly everyone on Guernsey had a garden, and some had hen houses and rabbit hutches. These were the places ripe for foragers like the Todt workers, and most Islanders guarded their gardens at night. They used sticks and poles to protect their vegetables. Sawyer was armed with a big iron skillet and a metal spoon so that he could raise the alarm for his neighbors to come.
One night he heard and then saw Jaruzki crawl through a gap in his hedge and waited for the boy to stand up; eventually, Jaruzki did try to stand, but he was too weak. He fell and just lay on the ground. Sawyer wheeled over to the boy and was stunned by how young and how pitiful he looked. He was thin, wasted, and filthy; vermin crawled everywhere on the boy, but he felt nothing. All this child wanted was a potato, but he did not have the strength even to dig it up. At that moment, Sawyer hated the Germans with everything in him.
He dragged the boy into his lap. While carrying him, he somehow managed to roll his chair into his kitchen where he built a fire, got a blanket, and heated water. Sawyer did what he could for the boy but could not ask his neighbors for help, as they might report him to the Germans; the punishment for sheltering a Todt worker was being sent to a concentration camp or being shot on the spot.
McKenna was the nursing aid who...
(The entire section is 806 words.)
Part 2, August 1 Summary
Ashton writes to Stark, telling him that Remy Giraud has arrived in Guernsey. She is a tiny thing with short black hair and eyes that are nearly black. Ashton thought Giraud might look wounded, but all she has is a slight limp which just looks like a slight hesitancy in her walk. Despite that, Giraud is no waif. Up close, she has an intensity in her eyes which is unnerving; she is not cold or unfriendly, but she is reserved and seems to be a bit removed from the realities of daily life. Given her experiences, Ashton does not find this surprising.
Everything changes when Giraud is with Kit. At first she simply followed the girl with her eyes and did not talk to her; however, things changed when Kit offered to teach Giraud how to lisp. Though startled at first, Giraud agreed, and the two of them went to Maugery’s greenhouse to practice. Kit is perfectly willing to give Giraud some extra lessons to compensate for her French accent.
On the evening Giraud arrived, Maugery held a small dinner party in her honor. Everyone was on their best behavior. Pribby brought a giant bottle of tonic but stuffed it in her coat pocket once she saw Giraud, thinking it might kill her. Ramsey was cautious, afraid he might accidentally hurt her. Giraud seemed comfortable with Maugery immediately, but Adams was undeniably her favorite. When he entered the room, Giraud visibly relaxed and even smiled at him.
Yesterday, Ashton, Kit, and Giraud built a sandcastle on McKenna’s tiny beach; it was a grand castle, and when they finished, they drank hot cocoa from a thermos and waited for the tide to come in and wash it away. Kit ran up and down the beach, inviting the waves to come in even farther and faster; Giraud touched Ashton’s shoulder and remarked quietly that McKenna once must have been just the same as her daughter. Ashton felt as if she had been given a gift, for even a small gesture takes trust, and she was glad Giraud felt safe with her.
While Kit danced amid the waves, Giraud told Ashton about McKenna. She had intended to stay out of trouble, conserve her strength, and get home as quickly as possible after the war. She and Giraud knew that the end of the war was drawing near, and going home seemed possible to them. They went to bed each night waiting to hear the Allied tanks at the gates of the camps, and every morning they hoped they might be free. Neither of them imagined they would die.
(The entire section is 760 words.)
Part 2, August 3 Summary
Stark receives a letter from Ashton thanking him for the gift he sent—anonymously—to Isola Pribby. It is a book published in the mid-1800s called The New Illustrated Self-Instructor in Phrenology and Psychiatry: With Size and Shape Tables and Over One-Hundred Illustrations. As if that were not enough, the book has a subtitle: Phrenology: The Science of Interpreting Bumps on the Head.
Eben Ramsey hosted a gathering last night for Ashton, Kit, Adams, Pribby, Maugery, Thisbee, and Giraud. Pribby brought tables, graph papers, sketches, measuring tape, calipers, and an empty notebook. After clearing her throat, she read the advertisement in the front of her new book, explaining that this book will teach her how to amaze her friends and confound her enemies by learning to read the bumps on their heads; with practice, she will be able to gather indisputable knowledge of their human faculties—or lack of them.
Pribby announced that she intends to become a proficient phrenologist before the Harvest Festival. She has already told the pastor that this year she will not be dressing up as a mystic or gypsy and pretend to read palms. From now on she plans to read head bumps in order to predict people’s futures. She is confident her booth will raise much more money for the church than Sybil Beddoes’ kissing booth. Thisbee agreed, saying Miss Beddoes is not a good kisser, and he for one is tired of kissing her, even in the name of charity.
Ashton scolds Stark for what he has released on Guernsey. Pribby has already “read” the lumps on one man’s head and told him his Love of Fellow Creatures Bump has a flaw, which is probably why he does not feed his dog enough food. What might come next is horrifying to consider.
One wonderful and unexpected thing has happened because of his gift, however. After dessert, Pribby began to read Ramsey’s head bumps and dictate the numbers for Ashton to record. When Ashton looked over at Giraud to see what she was thinking about Ramsey’s hair sticking straight up and Pribby running her hands through it, she saw that the young woman was trying to stifle a smile but could not. Finally Giraud burst into laughter, causing Ashton and Adams to stare at her in amazement. None of them could have imagined such a beautiful laugh: “[I]t was like water.” Ashton hopes she will hear Giraud laugh again.
Ashton and Adams are not as comfortable with...
(The entire section is 511 words.)
Part 2, August 5 Summary
Susan Scott writes to Ashton and explains that Stark leaves Ashton’s letters lying open on his desk for all to see; so, of course, she has read them. Scott wants to reassure Ashton that any personal errands Billee Bee does are done because she wants to do them. She begs to do whatever she can to help Stark, Ashton, or Kit, the one she calls “that dear child.” Billee Bee practically coos at Stark, and it is all Scott can do not to gag.
Contrary to what Stark thinks, Billee Bee is not an angel sent from heaven; she was sent by an employment agency, and her assignment was temporary. Now she has “dug herself in” and made herself indispensible—and permanent. Scott wonders if Kit would like some live animal that can be found only in the Galapagos Islands. If so, Billee Bee would board the next ship to the Galapagos Islands and be gone for months. She might even be gone forever, if only some animal there would eat her.
Pribby writes a thank-you note to Stark. She knows it was he who sent her the phrenology book. She has already found it to be quite useful, and she wants him to know she is thankful. Pribby has been studying hard and now can feel and distinguish an entire head full of bumps without looking at the book more than three or four times. She is already anticipating making a lot of money for the church at the Harvest Festival this year; she wonders who would not want to have their “innermost workings,” both good and bad, revealed by the science of phrenology.
This science has helped Pribby learn more in the last three days than she has learned in her entire life until now. Mrs. Guilbert, for example, has always been a rather nasty woman, but now Pribby knows that she cannot help being that way because she has a giant pit in her Benevolence spot. Guilbert fell in the quarry when she was little girl, and Pribby assumes that is when she shattered her Benevolence and has never been the same since.
Even people Pribby knows well have been full of surprises. Ramsey is Garrulous, something she would never have thought he would be, but the bags under his eyes prove it. Pribby broke the news to him gently. Ashton did not want to have her head bumps read at first, but when Pribby told her she was standing in the way of science, she relented. Ashton is “awash in Amativeness” and full of Conjugal Love. With these two bumps, Pribby is shocked that Ashton is not yet married. Thisbee...
(The entire section is 540 words.)
Part 2, August 6-7 Summary
Stark sends Ashton a telegram asking if Kit would like a bagpipe. He just bought one for his sister’s son, Dominic, and the store has only one left, so she must let him know immediately if she wants one. In reply, Ashton writes that, while she is confident Kit would adore having a bagpipe, she would not.
Work on Ashton’s book is going well, but she would like to send Stark the first two chapters, as she will not feel content with her work until he has seen it. She asks if he has time to read it.
Ashton believes every biography should be written within a generation of the subject’s life, while the person is still alive in the memories of others. If she had been able to speak to Anne Brontë's neighbors, for example, she might have written an entirely different biography. Perhaps the girl was not really rather meek and melancholy; she might have had a raging temper and thrown dishes to the floor quite regularly.
Every day Ashton learns something new about Elizabeth McKenna. She so wishes she could have known McKenna; as she writes about her, she finds herself thinking of her as a friend and remembering things she did as if Ashton had been there. The woman was so full of life that Ashton often has to remind herself that McKenna is dead, and then she “feels the wrench of losing her again.”
Today she heard a story about her that made her want to weep. She and Kit went to dinner at Ramsey’s; afterwards, Eli and Kit went to dig for worms, something best done in the moonlight. Ramsey and Ashton sat outside with their coffee, and for the first time, he talked to her about McKenna. He was not present for this story, but Pribby was and told him about it.
In the schoolhouse where the children were waiting to board the ships that would take them to England, Pribby and McKenna were doing all the little things for them that their parents were not present to do, such as wiping noses and tying shoelaces. McKenna was buttoning Eli’s coat when he told her he was scared of leaving his mother and his home; he wondered whom he would say goodbye to if the ship were bombed. McKenna took her time answering, as if she were giving serious thought to the boy’s question; then she removed a pin from her blouse. It was her father’s medal from the first war, and she always wore it.
As she held it, she explained to Eli that it was a magic badge, and nothing terrible could happen...
(The entire section is 660 words.)
Part 2, August 9 Summary
In a letter to her friend Sophie, Ashton sends her congratulations on the news that Sophie is pregnant. She hopes Sophie will not suffer much morning sickness, and though she knows Sophie does not care if the baby is a boy or a girl, Ashton is hoping for a little girl to spoil. She has already begun knitting a tiny pink matinee jacket for her. Ashton made the mistake of telling Pribby the news; Sophie may soon be receiving a bottle of Pribby’s Pre-Birthing Tonic. Ashton begs her friend not to drink the potion—or to throw it away anywhere the dogs might find it. Though it is not likely to contain anything poisonous, she does not want Sophie to take any chances.
All of Sophie’s questions about Adams should be asked of Kit or Giraud, not her. Ashton rarely even sees him anymore, and when she does, he is silent. His silence is not romantic and brooding like Mr. Rochester’s; instead his is sober and disapproving. It is puzzling to Ashton, for when she first arrived in Guernsey, Adams was her friend. They talked about Charles Lamb and walked all over the Island together; she enjoyed his company as much as the company of anyone she has ever known. After the awful evening on the headlands, however, Adams simply stopped talking to her. It has been a great disappointment to Ashton, for she felt as though they understood each another. Now she wonders if their relationship was an illusion from the beginning.
Since Ashton is not silent, she has a great curiosity about those who are. Adams has never talked about himself, and now he does not talk to her at all; Ashton has had to resort to asking Pribby about his head bumps in order to learn anything about his past. Now Pribby has begun to fear that the bumps may not reveal the truth, since Adams’ Violence-Prone Node is not as big as it should be, given the fact that Adams almost beat Eddie Meares to death.
Meares was a large mean man who traded information to the Germans in exchange for favors. Although everyone knew he was doing this, Meares did not seem to be bothered by it, since he would regularly go to the tavern and brag about his ill-gotten gains: white bread, cigarettes, and silk stockings. A week after McKenna and Sawyer were arrested, Meares was seen showing off a silver cigarette case and hinting that it was a reward for reporting something suspicious happening at Sawyer’s house.
When Adams heard this, he found Meares at Crazy...
(The entire section is 757 words.)
Part 2, August 11 Summary
Ashton writes that she is thrilled Stark is happy with her progress on McKenna’s biography, but she has something she cannot wait to tell him. She saw it firsthand, and if she is correct, Stephens & Stark Publishing will have the “publishing coup of the century.” Scholarly papers will be written, degrees will be granted, and Isola Pribby will be sought after by every university, library, and rich private collector in the entire Western Hemisphere.
Pribby was supposed to speak about Pride and Prejudice at last night’s Society meeting, but her goat Ariel ate her notes right before dinner. In her desperate hurry, Pribby grabbed several letters written by her Granny Pheen. When she pulled out the bundle of letters, wrapped in pink silk and bound with a satin bow, Thisbee exclaimed that they must be love letters and wondered if any secrets would be revealed. Pribby told him to hush and sit down.
The letters were written to her Granny Pheen (short for Josephine) by a very kind stranger when Pheen was just a little girl. Pribby's granny had kept them in a biscuit tin and had often read them to Pribby as a bedtime story. When Granny Pheen was nine years old, her father drowned her cat, Muffin, for climbing on the table and licking the butter dish. That was enough for her father to tie the cat into a burlap sack, along with some rocks, and throw it into the ocean. He met his daughter as she was walking home from school to tell her what he had done and that he was glad to be rid of the animal; he then walked on to the tavern, leaving a broken-hearted little girl sobbing in the middle of the road.
A carriage traveling too fast nearly hit the girl, and the coachman began to curse her; however, the passenger jumped out of the carriage and told the driver to be quiet. He was a very big man, wearing a dark coat with a fur collar, and he leaned over Pribby’s grandmother and asked if he could help her. The girl said there was nothing to be done; her father had drowned Muffin, and the cat was gone forever. The man quickly responded that Muffin was surely not dead; she must not have heard that cats have nine lives. The man assured her that he knew for a fact that Muffin was only on his third life.
When Pheen asked how he could know such a thing, the man told her he had just been born with a sense of knowing. He did not know how or why, but cats would often appear to him as if in a vision and talk...
(The entire section is 819 words.)
Part 2, August 13-20 Summary
In an overnight letter to Ashton, Stark writes that they are going to believe it was, indeed, Oscar Wilde who wrote Pribby’s letters. Billee Bee did some research, and Wilde was on Jersey for a week in 1893, so he might have gone to Guernsey during that visit. A famous graphologist will be arriving Friday with some of Wilde’s authenticated letters. If Thisbee finds the Holy Grail in his back yard, Stark does not want to hear about it. His heart can take only so much.
Pribby writes Stark to say she has heard about the handwriting expert he is sending to look at Granny Pheen’s letters, hoping to discover that they were written by the famous Wilde. Pribby is certain it was he, but she knows Stark will be enchanted by the letters about Solange, in any case. Her grandmother would twirl with happiness in her grave, knowing so many people will soon know about the fine man and his quirky ideas.
Ashton told Pribby that if the letters were written by Wilde, plenty of universities and libraries would want to own them and would offer her a lot of money for them, promising to keep them safe and dry in a properly cooled place. Pribby strenuously objects to the idea. The letters are currently safe, dry, and chilly in a biscuit tin and that is where they will stay. Anyone who wants to come see them is free to do so, of course; she and Zenobia will enjoy the company.
If Stark wants the letters for a book, he can have them; however, Pribby would like to write what Ashton calls the preface of the book. She would like to talk about Granny Pheen, and she has a picture of her and Muffin by the water pump. Ashton explained royalties to Pribby, and she is thinking of buying a motorcycle with a sidecar; there is a red secondhand one at a local garage.
Ashton writes Stark after the graphologist leaves. She was present for the inspection, and she panicked just as the man appeared at Pribby’s kitchen. What if the letters were not what she thought they were? She was afraid of wasting everyone’s time and money. The prim little man, Sir William, settled down at Pribby’s table, dusted off his fingers, fitted a small lens into one eye, and removed the first letter. After a long silence, Sir William took another letter from the tin. He sighed. The women twitched. He murmured and they nodded. Still there was silence. Finally he looked at them and nodded. The letters were written by Wilde.
(The entire section is 610 words.)
Part 2, August 22-24 Summary
Ashton writes Sophie that Stark is becoming quite grand, sending an emissary to collect Pribby’s Wilde letters. Though Billee Bee did not do well on the crossing, she rallied enough to eat dinner and was a lively participant in tonight’s Literary Society meeting.
There was only one awkward moment, when Billee Bee tried to kiss Kit. She backed away and told Billee Bee she does not kiss. It is apparent that Kit does not like the woman, but Ashton wants Kit to demonstrate good manners at all times and spoke privately with her later.
Ever since Kit was officially made an orphan, Ashton has worried about Kit’s future and her future without Kit. She is certain it would be unbearable. Ashton plans to make an appointment soon with Mr. Dilwyn, Kit’s legal guardian; she wants to talk with him about becoming Kit’s guardian, foster parent, or adoptive parent. While she would prefer an outright adoption, she is not convinced Mr. Dilwyn would consider her, a spinster with a fluctuating income and no established home, to be an appropriate parent.
Ashton has not spoken of these plans to anyone else, as there is so much to consider. She wonders if Maugery would approve, if Kit would even want her for a mother, and if she could take Kit away from this glorious place and make her live in a cramped city. Though Kit would have Stark and Sophie in England, she would have none of her Guernsey friends. The one thing Ashton knows for sure is that she wants to care for Kit forever. (If Mr. Dilwyn says no to her proposal, Ashton might kidnap Kit and hide out in Sophie’s barn.)
Ashton writes Stark, teasing him about being called to Rome because he was elected Pope. She hopes it is something important that required his attention, since he had to send Billee Bee in his place to collect Wilde's letters. His secretary had insisted on taking the originals back to London with her, as she said he asked her to do, but Ashton thinks copies would have sufficed. She warns Stark to be very careful with them, as they are Pribby’s prized possession. Though they all like Billee Bee just fine, Ashton hopes Stark will be able to return the letters in person.
Billee Bee is an enthusiastic guest, involved and interested in everything she attends, including a Literary Society meeting. Stark would have enjoyed last night’s meeting, as the book discussion was about his favorite, The Canterbury Tales....
(The entire section is 800 words.)
Part 2, August 25-26 Summary
Ashton writes to Scott, telling her Pribby has made her an honorary member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Kit is making her a special gift which she may want to open outside since it involves glue and sand. Her telegram came just in time. When it arrived, Ashton thought she and Billee Bee were alone in the house; however, when she went upstairs, she discovered that her guest and all her belongings were gone.
Terrified, Ashton called Adams to help her hunt for the missing woman. He came after calling Booker, telling him to check the harbor and ordering him to stop the woman from leaving Guernsey at any cost. Adams arrived at the cottage quickly, and they ran down the road toward town. As they came to Pribby’s farm, Adams suddenly stopped and began to laugh.
Sitting on the ground in front of the smokehouse were Kit and Pribby. Kit was holding the quilted ferret Billee Bee brought her and a large brown envelope; Pribby was sitting on Billee Bee’s suitcase. They were a picture of innocence as a terrible squawking came from inside the smokehouse.
Ashton rushed to hug Kit and retrieve the envelope, while Adams unlatched the smokehouse door. Inside, Billee Bee was crouched in a corner trying to protect herself from a frantic Zenobia who had already damaged her hat. When Adams carried her out, Billee Bee was screaming about being assaulted by a witch and threatening all manner of legal trouble. Ashton screamed at her that she was the criminal here, trying to sneak off with Pribby’s letters. Billee Bee threatened to tell Gilly Gilbert what they did to her; Ashton told her to please tell the entire world, as she can see the salacious headlines already.
Booker arrived, looking menacing; he was followed by Giraud, carrying a hoe. He glared at Billee Bee so fiercely that Ashton almost felt sorry for her. Booker took her arm and started toward the harbor to send her to England on the next boat. As she walked by Kit, the woman grabbed the ferret out of Kit’s hands. Ashton wanted so badly to slap her—so she did. Living on the Island must be “getting to her.”
Ashton finishes her letter by explaining how Kit and Pribby caught Billee Bee. Last night, Pribby discovered that the woman’s Duplicitous Bump was too big, and then Kit told Ashton that she had seen Billee Bee snooping around in the kitchen. Ashton and Kit decided they would follow her this morning,...
(The entire section is 814 words.)
Part 2, August 29 Summary
Ashton writes Sophie to tell her that all is well once again on Guernsey. Ivor has made his copies, and the original Wilde letters are back in Pribby’s biscuit tin. Ashton is now calm until Stark reads the letters.
Ashton was even calm during the entire Billee Bee ordeal until after she put Kit to bed that night. Then she started to pace until there was a knock at her door. She was surprised and a little flustered to see Adams at her window, and she threw the door wide open—to find Adams with Giraud standing on the front steps. They came to see how she was doing (very kind of them). She wonders if Giraud is getting homesick for France yet.
Ashton just read an article by a French political prisoner held at Ravensbrück for five years; she wrote about how difficult it is to live as a camp survivor. No one in France, even friends and family, wants to know anything about life in the camp and believes that the sooner it is all forgotten the better off the survivor will be. The author explains that no one who survived wants to wallow in the details; however, it did happen, and it would be impossible to pretend that it did not. It seems to be the cry of the nation that everyone suffered because of the war, and now it is better to leave it all in the past. In the midst of this “institutional amnesia,” the author believes the only solution is for survivors to talk to other survivors, as they speak the language of a shared experience. They can talk and cry and rant and tell stories, from the absurd to the tragic. Sometimes they can even laugh, and the relief of this sharing is enormous.
Now Ashton wonders if this kind of sharing would be more helpful to Giraud than living in this stress-free, bucolic setting. Though she is physically stronger, her eyes still seem haunted.
Mr. Dilwyn is back from his vacation, and Ashton needs to make an appointment with him soon. She has been putting it off because she is afraid he will not consider her request to become Kit’s mother. Perhaps her chances would be better if she looked more “motherly.” If Mr. Dilwyn requires references, would Sophie be willing to write a letter of recommendation?
Ashton has not told Sophie what Mr. Dilwyn is planning for Kit’s inheritance on Guernsey. He has commissioned Adams to hire a crew to make all the needed repairs on the Big House: banisters replaced, graffiti removed, plumbing and windows...
(The entire section is 804 words.)
Part 2, September 2 Summary
It has been an upsetting day for Ashton, and she is so disturbed she is having trouble sleeping. She writes Stark instead of her friend Sophie because Sophie is pregnant, and Ashton does not want to upset her. Today Kit was with Pribby making cookies. Giraud and Ashton needed some ink, and Adams needed some supplies for the repair work on the Big House, so they all walked together to go to St. Peter’s Port.
They walked the beautiful route along the cliff, on a rugged pathway which wanders up and around the headlands. Because the path narrowed, Ashton was a little in front of Adams and Giraud when a woman turned onto the path from behind a large boulder and began to walk toward them. She had a big dog with her, an Alsatian, that was not on a leash. The dog bounded ahead, excited to see Ashton; she was laughing at his antics. The woman called out that she should not worry, as he never bites. The dog put his big paws on Ashton’s shoulders in an effort to give her a slobbery kiss.
Ashton suddenly heard an awful gasping from behind her, a “deep gagging that went on and on.” When she turned around, she saw Giraud was bent over double, vomiting. Adams grabbed her and held her tightly as she vomited in spasms all over both of them. Adams screamed at Ashton to get the dog away from them immediately, and she frantically pushed it away. The woman was apologetic, crying almost hysterically, until Ashton finally got her to take her dog and leave.
By then Giraud was quiet, just gasping for breath. Adams suggested they take her to Ashton’s cottage because it was closest; then he picked up Giraud and carried her as Ashton trailed helplessly behind. Giraud was shivering, and Ashton drew her a warm bath. After Giraud was dry and warm, Ashton put her in bed; she was already half asleep. After gathering the dirty clothes into a bundle, Ashton went downstairs to find Adams staring out a window.
Without turning to look at Ashton, he said that Giraud once told him the guards at Ravensbrück used to rile up big dogs and let them loose on the women lined up for roll call so that the guards could watch and laugh. Adams is angry at himself for his ignorance, for thinking that being here with all of them would help Giraud forget. He said that “good will is not enough,” and Ashton agreed.
Adams said nothing more, just nodded at her and left. Ashton called Maugery to tell her what happened and...
(The entire section is 568 words.)
Part 2, September 4-6 Summary
Stark sends a night letter to Ashton explaining that all the thinking she did simply means that she is in love with Dawsey Adams. He wonders if Ashton is surprised; he is not. He just wonders why it has taken her so long to realize it. He has always heard that sea air is supposed to clear one’s head, but it has not seemed to work for her. Stark wants to come see her and the Wilde letters; he will not be able to come until the thirteenth, and he wonders if that will suit her. Ashton sends a telegram to Stark the next day telling him that he is insufferable, especially when he is right. She will love seeing him on the thirteenth.
Pribby writes to Stark, telling him it is about time he is coming to see her Granny Pheen’s letters in person. Although she did not mind Ivor, she did have to give him some advice about his ties; however, Ivor was more interested in listening to the story of how she first suspected Billee Bee and then prevented her from taking the Wilde letters. Ivor told her it was excellent detective work, and Miss Marple could not have done any better.
In case Stark does not know, Miss Marple is not one of Ivor's friends. She is a fictional female detective who uses her knowledge of human nature to figure out mysteries and solve crimes that other people, including the police, cannot. Pribby has begun to think how nice it would be to spend her time solving mysteries; however, she does not know of any. Ivor told her there is always “skulduggery” to be found, and with her good instincts, it is likely she could train herself to become another Miss Marple. She already has the proper observational skills, so she just needs to practice. Ivor said she should take note of everything and then write down what she observes.
Pribby borrowed a few Miss Marple books from Maugery and thinks Marple is quite a character. She sits and knits, looking so innocent as she sees what everyone else misses. Pribby is certain she could learn to do that: see things from the “sides of her eyes” and “keep her eyes open for what doesn’t listen right.” Though there are currently no unsolved mysteries on Guernsey, that does not mean there never will be one. When it happens, she will be ready.
Pribby will always treasure the book on head bumps that Stark gave her, and she hopes he will not be offended that she has turned her talents to another calling. She still trusts in the truth of bumps on people’s...
(The entire section is 589 words.)
Part 2, September 7-11 Summary
Ashton writes Sophie and says she finally got up the nerve to tell Maugery about her desire to adopt Kit; she was anxious for her approval, above all. When Ashton finally spoke the words, Maugery’s relief was visible. Ashton was shocked, for she had not realized how worried Maugery was about Kit’s future. Maugery was so moved she could hardly speak, and soon both women were in tears. After the tears, they began to scheme.
Maugery will go with Ashton to see Mr. Dilwyn; she has known him since he was a boy, and he would not dare to refuse her this request. Having Maugery on one’s team is like having an entire army at one’s back. While that is good, something even better has happened, and Ashton’s last doubt about her future with Kit has been virtually erased.
Ashton has written Sophie before about Kit’s little box which she often carries with her; this morning Kit patted Ashton’s face until she woke up and then silently began untying the string on her box. Kit took off the lid, parted the tissue paper, and gave the box to Ashton. Then she stood back and just watched as Ashton removed the items and placed them on the coverlet. Inside were a tiny baby pillow, a small photo of McKenna digging in her garden and laughing up at Adams, a woman’s jasmine-scented handkerchief, a man’s signet ring, and a small leather book of poetry inscribed “For Elizabeth—who turns darkness into light, Christian.” Inside the book was a much-worn bit of paper; Kit nodded and Ashton opened it carefully. It was a note from McKenna to Maugery, asking her to kiss Kit for her when she wakes up and saying she will be back by six. It is signed Elizabeth, and there is a postscript: “Doesn’t she have the most beautiful feet?” Underneath everything else was Kit’s grandfather’s WWI medal, the one McKenna gave to Eli and which Eli must have returned to Kit.
Kit was showing Ashton her treasures, and her eyes never once left Ashton’s face. There were no tears, but Ashton opened her arms, and Kit climbed right into them, curled up against her, and went promptly to sleep. Ashton was too busy planning their future to sleep. She will not be going back to London, for she cannot imagine Kit having to do without all her surrogate parents and all the wonderful things they do together.
If she were Kit’s guardian, they could continue living in the cottage and allow the Big House to be used as a vacation home for...
(The entire section is 737 words.)
Part 2, Isola Pribby Sunday Notes Summary
These are the private notes of Miss Isola Pribby, and they are not to be read, even after her death. She is writing them in a notebook which Stark sent her. It had the word PENSEES on the front, but she scratched it off because she will not be writing her thoughts, just facts. She does not expect to make many observations at first, as she must learn to be more observant.
Sunday’s observations are as follows: Kit loves spending time with Ashton. Kit is peaceful and no longer makes faces behind people’s backs. Also, she can wiggle her ears now, something she could not do when Ashton came to Guernsey. Stark is coming soon and will stay with Ashton, as she has cleared out a storage room and added a bed for him. Daphne Post was digging another hole late last night. Pribby thinks they should all pitch in and buy her a silver teapot so that Post can stay home at night.
On Monday, Pribby notices a rash on Mrs. Taylor’s arm and wonders if it is caused by her tomatoes or her husband. She makes a note to look further into the matter. Pribby has no observations to add on Tuesday or Wednesday, but on Thursday Giraud comes to visit her. She always gives Pribby the colorful French stamps from her letters. Giraud has now received four brown envelopes from the French government, and Pribby wonders what government officials want from the young girl. Ramsey is having his beach party Saturday, so there will undoubtedly be something for her to observe there.
Pribby has been reading a book about artists and how they perform all kinds of maneuvers to get a different perspective on their subjects. She intends to do the same by not staring at anything directly; she can move her eyes slyly if she keeps her eyelids lowered a bit.
On Friday, Pribby writes that the eye technique works. She goes to the airfield with Ashton, Adams, Giraud, and Kit to meet Stark. Ashton hugs Stark to her, and he swings her around as a brother would do. Stark is happy to meet Giraud; he seems watch her sideways, as Pribby watches him. Adams shakes Stark’s hand but does not join the others for cake at Ashton's house. Pribby puts drops in her eyes before bed, as her sideways looking is a strain and her eyelids ache from staying half-closed all the time.
Saturday is Ramsey’s party. Some of them gather firewood while others carry Ramsey’s big cauldron to the beach. Maugery looks rested. Adams and Stark are polite to each...
(The entire section is 809 words.)
Part 2, Isola Pribby Monday Notes Summary
These notes are all from Monday, and Pribby titles them “A Serious Error, A Joyous Night.”
Pribby wakes up too early and has to fuss with her hens until she knows Adams has left for work at the Big House. She walks to his farm, checking every tree trunk along the way for carved hearts, but she finds none. For two hours Pribby washes, waxes, and cleans but finds nothing. Just as she is beginning to despair, she thinks about books and begins to clap them open and shut to see if anything falls out. Nothing does. Then she sees a little red book about Charles Lamb’s life and wonders what it is doing here. She had seen Adams place it in the wooden treasure box Eli carved him for his birthday. If the book is here, what is in the treasure box, and where is it now?
Pribby taps on walls to see if they are hollow and puts her arm into the flour bin. No luck. Then she wonders if it is under Adams’s bed, and it is. Nothing inside catches her attention, so she dumps everything out on the bed and still finds nothing of Giraud’s. She puts everything back in the box and gathers her cleaning supplies in defeat.
As she trudges home, Pribby knows only Ashton can cheer her up; she finds Ashton with papers spread out all around her, staring out the window. When Ashton finally looks at Pribby’s crestfallen face, she invites her guest to sit down. It is then that Pribby bursts into tears and explains what her mission had been and how it had failed. Ashton assures her that many men do not keep mementos or keepsakes and asks what, exactly, Pribby was hoping to find.
Pribby says she was looking for evidence, but all she saw were pictures of Ashton and Kit and several of Ashton by herself. All Ashton’s letters to him were tied up in the blue hair ribbon Ashton had thought she lost. Pribby did not find one letter or handkerchief of Giraud’s, though Ashton’s handkerchief was in there, and she might want to ask him to give it back to her. Ashton goes to her desk and picks up a paperweight that says Carpe Diem and asks Pribby if she thinks “seizing the day” is an inspiring thought. Pribby supposes so, if one likes being inspired by a rock.
Ashton then surprises Pribby by grinning her best grin and asking if Adams is working at the Big House. When Pribby nods, Ashton races out the door and up the drive to the manor. Pribby is thrilled, thinking Ashton is going to scold Adams for denying his...
(The entire section is 768 words.)
Part 2, September 17 Summary
Juliet Ashton writes to Sidney Stark, apologizing for making him turn around and return to Guernsey after having just left; however, she requires his presence—at her wedding. She has seized the day, and the night, and now she wants Stark to come give her away in Amelia Maugery’s backyard garden on Saturday. Eben Ramsey will be the best man, and Isola Pribby will be the maid of honor; she is “manufacturing a gown” just for the occasion. Kit will be the flower girl and throw the rose petals.
Dawsey Adams will be the groom.
Ashton wonders if Stark is surprised. It is likely he is not, but Ashton certainly is. In fact, she finds herself in a constant state of surprise these days. Now that she stops to think, she has been betrothed only for one full day, but it seems to her as if her entire life has been brought into existence only in the past twenty-four hours. Ashton and Adams might have gone on forever, longing for each another and pretending not to notice each other. Being obsessed with preserving one’s dignity can ruin one’s life if one is not careful.
She asks Stark if it is unseemly to get married so quickly. Even if it is, she does not want to wait. Ashton wants her new life to begin at once. All her life she has assumed that once the hero and the heroine were properly engaged, the story was over. That is what happens in Jane Austen’s books, and if it is good enough for her, it should be good enough for everyone else—but it is just not true. After the engagement, the story is just beginning, and every day after that is a new part of the plot. She thinks maybe her next book will be about a fascinating married couple and everything they learn about each another during their years together. Stark should be glad that her engagement has already had a positive effect on her writing career.
Adams has just arrived from the Big House and is demanding her immediate attention. The shyness everyone used to talk about in Adams has completely vanished; Ashton suspects it was all a trick he used to garner her sympathy.
In a postscript, Ashton tells Stark she met Adelaide Addison in St. Peter Port today. Addison offered her congratulations by saying that she heard Ashton and the pig farmer are going to “regularize their connection”—then added a hearty “Praise the Lord!”
(The entire section is 421 words.)