Monday, October 5, 2009

England Circa World War II

I've been transported to England in the 1940s often lately. My previous review, To Say Nothing of the Dog, had multiple scenes that took place around Coventry Cathedral during the Luftwaffe bombing. I just completed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Plus, Ickie and I are addicted to the BBC series Foyle's War.

Guernsey is a novel in letter format, set shortly after WWII. It chronicles the fictional friendships among author Juliet Ashton and the members of the literary society on Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands occupied during the war. Juliet and the islanders initially bond over their shared love of literature and then grow to know each other deeply. There are many stories of events during the occupation from multiple perspectives. Most of the letter writers are delightful characters, although at least one is extremely irritating, and we come to know the brightest star of the cast via secondhand stories. The novel does a spectacular job of conveying the a character's complex nature with a short, simple anecdote. There are a several enjoyable romances and one point in the book in which I cried noisily with tears streaming down my face. If you enjoyed 84, Charing Cross Road (which I did), you may see a similarity here.

Foyle's War, set in a small town on the southern coast of England, is a series about a police detective during WWII. Each episode is more than a mystery, as Foyle often turns up government corruption and espionage related to the war effort. Honeysuckle Weeks (love the name!) and Anthony Howell (Roger of BBC's Wives and Daughters) are excellent in supporting roles, but Ickie and I especially love Michael Kitchen's understated performance as Chief Inspector Foyle. He is quintessentially British, conveying a range of thought and emotion with a stiff upper lip. The scenery is lovely, featuring white cliffs, small towns, period sets, Spitfires zooming over the countryside, and stately manors. Although many of the events and revelations are quite depressing, there's also subtle humor. Mysteries and WWII stories have been done again and again, but Foyle's War is uncommon.


Felix said...

I, too, love Foyle's War.

Having spent frequent spells in Hastings (where Foyle is based) doesn't do any harm wither :-)

Ickenham said...

That's Detective Chief Inspector Foyle, thank you very much.