Textpublishing provides the following outline of this book:
Guernsey, 1985. Fifteen-year-old Catherine Rozier has a secret she can no longer keep to herself. It’s about the night her best friend fell from the cliffs.
Twenty years earlier, Charlie Rozier stands at the edge of the same cliffs, looking for a confession of a different kind. He thinks he was betrayed by his friend during the Occupation, and now he wants the truth to come out.
This stunning debut from Mary Horlock is about the conflicts and trials of growing up, the secrets of families, and the repressed histories that we all harbour. Captivating and moving, it is a journey with two characters whose unique voices the reader will not easily forget.
It sounds captivating. It wasn’t.
I really and truly struggled with this book. I so desperately wanted to like the characters, to be drawn into the plot and to be carried away into another time and place. But, none of this happened. I found the first part of the book terribly boring, slow moving and at times confusing. I felt as though there was something there waiting to be discovered but it was never really revealed. My position as reader in this relationship was frustrating to say the least and I read on to the final page only because of this feeling that buried here was something great.
Despite the challenges that I faced in actually completing this book (read: it took me a REALLY REALLY REALLY LLLLLOOOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG time!), what I found most interesting was the context of Guernsey during WWII. In fact, I was so taken by this background that at times I found myself researching some of the events and descriptions which Horlock provided in outlining the backdrop for part of the story.
When I go back and reread the book’s opening, it doesn’t seem so bad. It actually captures some of the elements which so attracted me to the book in the first place. For a moment I have to consider that perhaps I have missed the book’s essence … but no, I don’t think this is the case. I wasn’t convinced on too many levels – even the title didn’t seem to fit with the angst that this book described. Poor Cat, fat and lumpy she seemed to me, totally out of place, exactly as I imagine Guernsey to be, funnily enough (not that I have anything but assumptions to base that on!). But, rather than empathise with Cat, I found her irritating. She grated on me as I imagine she grated on her peers. And, to top it all off, I found Nicolette’s actions totally over-exaggerated and unrealistic, especially toward the end as Cat tries to recall the events of the night on the cliff. Whether Nic’s behaviour is described in this way as a means to convey Cat’s version of events (a type of justification), I cannot be sure. Nonetheless, there are too many moments in this text where Nic seems excessive in terms of characterisation.
What has stayed with me most from this read is how relieved I am that I finally reached the last page!
(As an aside, I have read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and I found that a far more endearing read.)