Literary Gems of the Channel Islands

18th November 2019

The Channel Islands have provided inspiration and often a safe haven for writers over the years. Both Jersey and Guernsey continue to celebrate their engagement with literature, with the Guernsey Literary Festival taking place in April/May and the Jersey Festival of Words in September. For many there’s nothing better than to sit on the terrace with a good book and a delicious Jersey cream tea, or to lounge on a sunny Guernsey beach and lose yourself in a fascinating story. Here are a few recommendations which we think make great reading but also provide a bit of insight into the Islands.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Annie Burrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

This is much-loved bestseller is an account of an exchange of correspondence between a London-based writer, and the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Made into a film in 2018, the unfolding tale of 4 years of German Occupation, and the bonds among the neighbours living in wartime Guernsey is a captivating and moving insight into the community spirit which abounded during the years of Occupation. The splendid Hotel Jerbourg in St. Martins is situated next to La Bouvee Farm featured in the book, and close to Fermain and the Jerbourg Cliffs and for those who wish to experience the locations of the book first-hand, this is a wonderful place to start.

Paper Aeroplanes – Dawn O’Porter

British writer and broadcast Dawn O’Porter grew up in Guernsey with her sister. She published her first novel, Paper Aeroplanes in 2013 and the book is loosely based on her own experience growing up on the Island of Guernsey. The book tells the story of two teenage girls and their unlikely friendship, living in Guernsey during the 1990s. Funny and nostalgic in equal measure, this story of friendship will resonate with anyone who was once 15.

Menageries Manor – Gerald Durrell

Gerald Durrell founded Jersey Zoo in 1959, and it remains one of the Island’s best and busiest attractions today. Menagerie Manor is his own account of how he fulfilled his lifelong dream of creating a sanctuary for endangered species . This fascinating insight into his experiences in Jersey while he realised his ambition and set about founding what would later be known as Jersey Zoo is a delightful narrative which brings alive the history of Jersey Zoo, its animals, grounds and the man whose passion led him to start it all.

Les Travailleurs de la Mer – Victor Hugo

During Victor Hugo’s 15 years’ exiles on the Island of Guernsey, he wrote Les Travailleurs de la Mer and dedicated it to the Island he loved so much, saying “I dedicate this book to the rock of hospitality and liberty, to that corner of old Norman land where the noble little people of the sea live, to the island of Guernsey, stern and sweet, my present asylum, my probable tomb.” His presence is still keenly felt in both Jersey and Guernsey, and it is possible to visit his home in Guernsey, Hauteville House, and see for yourself the exquisite décor and breath-taking views from the home in which he completed much of his writing, including Les Misérables.

Jersey Occupation Diary – Nan Le Ruez

This vivid and harrowing account of life for a young woman in her 20s, living on a Jersey Farm during the Occupation of the Island during WWII affords a moving insight into the hardships and bravery of the Islanders during this period in Jersey’s history. A visit to the Jersey War Tunnels is a more immersive way to learn of the stories of Nan Le Ruez and the hundreds more Islanders like her. This underground collection set within 1000 metres of tunnels, the exhibits and stories contained here are an extraordinary legacy of the lives of those Islanders before the eventual Liberation of Jersey and Guernsey, one day later than the rest of the UK, on 09 May 1945.

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