Book Review (again…sorry!): Ten Days One Guernsey Summer (***)

I am proud to be a Ten Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley

I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review. So, here it is:

The Net Galley synopsis reads thus:

This is the story of a family living on the Channel Island of Guernsey, faced with the potential of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany during June 1940. Based on a true story, this is how they faced up to the decisions that needed to be made during the last few days before the occupation of the British Channel Islands.

We also follow the story of a German bomber pilot, and the actions he was involved in during the same period and how his life and actions impacted on that Guernsey family during 10 Days one Guernsey Summer. This is a story of love and compassion in the face of extreme adversity.

A must read for anyone interested in this period of history, 10 Days One Guernsey Summer is a story that will warm your heart and bring you to tears. Prepare to live those days and experience what it was like to face a period when decisions had to be made without anyone knowing where those decisions might lead.

I really, really wanted to enjoy this book – it was written by the grandson of the main characters, it involves a period of history that I find interesting, set in a place about which I know very little. The reviewers on Net Galley gave it five stars almost unanimously, with very flattering write-ups. I was looking forward to a story that hooked me from the first pages, that would “grab your heart and not let go until you can breathe a sigh of relief at the last page” (as one reviewer wrote.)

I think you can probably tell that there is a big “but” coming….

BUT…

I’m afraid that I found the story, and the telling of it, incredibly pedestrian. There was not a lot to hold my interest, just a slightly tedious recounting of everyday life (albeit during a momentous time in history) wherein the protagonists go to work, come home, discuss options, make decisions…but not much else happens until the day before the invasion of the island by the Nazi army.

I was more interested by the non-familial story, that of the German bomber pilot. This story held a little more jeopardy, and it was interesting to read “the other side”. Bernhard was a sympathetic character, an ordinary German, who was doing a job that he had to do, in as “moral” a way possible. He tried to avoid killing defenceless civilians, he acknowledged the bravery of his opponents, he wrote to his family and girlfriend, keeping the worst of the war from them. He was a likeable character, but we didn’t get much insight into his psyche: it was more a straightforward description of his actions: what he did rather than why he did it, or what he thought about it

And I think this was my problem with the telling of this story: it read very much like an account of actions, without much going beyond this. There was very little dialogue, very little descriptive writing, very little observation about motivation and character. So much so, that by the end I didn’t really care what happened to any of them, let alone being moved to tears, as one reviewer promised. Yes, I learned about how people went about their every day life on Guernsey in early 1940; I found out a little about the tomato growing and export business on the island; I even discovered information about the food that was eaten…but I had no sense of getting under the skin of the characters.

As readers of my reviews will know, I also find myself getting irritated by bad punctuation and poor writing, and there were examples of both in this book. When I was teaching 9 and 10 year olds, I refused to allow them to use the adjective “nice” – I explained that this was lazy writing, and always pushed them to find another adjective that told me more about the thing they were describing. The author uses “nice” too many times for my liking, and, I’m afraid, not many other adjectives.

He also thanks his proof reader – quite frankly, I wouldn’t be thanking someone who has such a poor understanding of the use of apostrophes. They were used in a very random fashion: frequently used for plurals (which is wrong. Example “The three K’s climbed into the plane”), sometimes used for the third person singular neutral possessive (which is wrong. Example: It’s wings shone in the sunlight), sometimes NOT used to denote a missing letter ( which is wrong: “Its a lovely day today” ) It’s this lazy editing that really annoys me, and I seem to find it so frequently! I’m sorry, regular readers, that you get subjected to my rants about it so often!

I’m not sure if it is an editing, or a proof reading, or an e-reader problem but there were also rather too many occasions when the spacing of words was incorrect, with words broken in the middle, or running into the next word with no space between them. Only a small matter, but a tad irritating.

I’m sorry to sound so down on this book, as it is obviously a subject close to the author’s heart. At the end of the book he talks about his love of Guernsey, of his grandparents and his family; he tells us how he has lived and worked on the island for all his life, and describes his childhood experiences. I really wanted to like this book, and maybe that’s why I gave it three stars – because finally, the author’s love for the subject shone through. In my opinion, it isn’t well written, but at least I knew that there was a passion in the writing, that the people meant something to the author, even if, sadly, I ended up not being terribly interested in what happened to them.

Nazi troops march through St Peter Port, Guernsey

A view of St Peter Port today


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