20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Could not put it down!, 21 Mar 2011
I am a busy mum of 2 with a part-time job and very little time but once I started this I could not put it down and MADE time to read it. Right from the attention-grabbing opening of a teenage girl hovering on a cliff edge. Catherine Rozier is a brilliant creation - full of teenage angst and melodrama - scribbling frantically in her diary in 1985 she tells the tragic story of her ill-fated friendship with the now dead Nicolette. Catherine's a proper know-it-all, and she just can't help adding footnotes, and congratulating herself when she uses a particularly long word. Add to this her misery at being stuck on what she calls a 'miserable rock' - the island of Guernsey - and her daily entries make for for heady and hilarious reading.
But Catherine's breathless rantings are intercut with another voice. Her (now long dead) Uncle Charlie recorded his own memories of the island from when he was a teenager. His story, punctuated by snippets of old Guernsey patois, is very different in tone, but then Charlie was a teenager when Guernsey was occupied by the Germans during the war. He's eager to tell you all the things the Guernsey Tourist Board don't ever want you to hear. He talks of mass graves and informers, and, most importantly, he talks about his closest friend, the friend that betrayed him to the Nazis and ruined his chances of escaping.
Now it gets complicated: Charlie is telling his story to his brother and Catherine's father, Emile Rozier, a man who devoted his life to exposing the truth about the German Occupation, and whose books and journals care crammed in every corner of the family home.
It's soon apparent that Catherine isn't just trying to explain what happened between her and Nicolette, she's trying to explain what happened to her family. Her and Charlie's stories intertwine like creeping ivy, coming closer and closer together, occasionally spliced by an old letter written by Emile, complaining to someone about the depiction of Channel Islanders as collaborators, etc.
It's clear that neither Catherine or Charlie have such a firm grip on the truth. But then, we increasingly ask, what is the truth, and who is really guilty?
There's some serious questions in the book about the shifting nature of history, and despite the switching back and forth between narrators the plot is precise. Horlock layers everything carefully, never letting you know too much, and keeps you on that cliff edge right to the brilliant and terrifying conclusion.
It's a brilliant book - the danger it you'll read it too quickly and miss some of the subtleties. Anyone who thinks they know about the German Occupation from reading 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society' should think again, because it's clear Horlock (who I note grew up on Guernsey) has dug an awful lot deeper. It's frightening, funny and very, very original