My very favorite read from the last 5 years

book club pick

I love to read.  I’m a reader, through and through.  Always have been, and hopefully always will be (unless I’m rendered deaf and blind, in which case: take me out coach).  Much to my husbands’ dismay I regularly pay overdue fines of $50+ to the local library for ambitious amounts of overdue books, lost books, and books accidentally soaked in Chai (who me? never!) in addition to spending unhealthy amounts of cash at Barnes & Noble for new hardback books I’ve been dying to read and don’t have patience to wait for in paperback.

There’s nothing like a really good read is there?

Once upon a time I was in a book club for about five minutes before I realized, (as in every other aspect of my life) I don’t like being told what to do, even if it means reading a book someone else has chosen.  I don’t take orders very well, even if I’m the idiot who opted into the club in the first place.

Sometimes I need to be saved from myself.

Anyway, this was my only book pick I managed to stick around for (I guess I had to show up) and I could not love it more.

book club pick

The history of how the book came to be written at all is super interesting in and of itself.  The primary author, Mary Ann Shaffer, traveled to England to further research on an entirely different book she was planning to write and upon arriving in Britain and not finding enough information to write that book, combined with a long weather-related layover at an airport in the U.K. wherein Shaffer read several volumes of WWII English history in the airport, she decided to write quite another book.

England, like every other country involved in a world war, has so much crazy interesting rich history surrounding the clever folks who manage to scrape by despite the German occupation, general starvation and bombed out landscape.  So Mary Ann compiled a richly delicious narrative about the history of an eccentric group of British citizens from Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy, France during World War II.

Truth is always stranger than fiction, and usually far more interesting at that, as is detailed in the book.  You just can’t believe some what these people survived, and how they thrived, despite a horrific war and resulting German occupation.  Shaffer weaves a luscious history with characters you’ll fall in love with, and desperately want to be friends with by the end of the book.

british channel island

I didn’t know anything about the Channel Islands before reading this (how???) and now have a deep desire to travel there, to Guernsey at the very least, before I die.

favorite book


Sadly, Shaffer died before completing the book, but like any strong woman with foresight, enlisted the help of her niece, writer Annie Barrows to finish the book upon realizing she couldn’t finish it herself.  Barrows kept the pages true to her aunt’s original story and if you didn’t know the history behind the account getting published, you’d never know the difference.

This book is so good.  So interesting, so warm and cozy (that’s a thing), the characters so real (they were!) you’ll never want it to end.  Seriously, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s definitely my very favorite read of the last 5 years, if not 10.  I loved every minute of it and love going back to read it again and again.

What are you waiting for?  Go! Get your read on.

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Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!


  1. Trish :

    Yes! this is one of my favorite books as well, and an annual comfort read. I remember wishing it had been published closer to the holidays so I could have given it to all my friends, I wanted everyone to read it!

    • Allison :

      Trish, isn’t it amazing? I’ve actually had great luck finding copies at thrift stores! I’d love to give one to every friend I have, it’s so so good!

  2. MC :

    I also loved that book. I re-read it a few months after the first reading and loved it even more. I would love to visit the island! It sounds like such a picturesque place.

    • Allison :

      I’m planning to read it again over Christmas when I’m all snug and warm inside and can deal with the cold foggy idea of the Channel Islands. I love it so so much.

  3. Christine :

    I also loved this book! Definitely one of my favorites.

    • Allison :

      I’m so glad to hear it! It’s so amazing, I’m glad you loved it too.

  4. Julia :

    Perfect timing. I was just thinking I needed a good book to get me through this 3rd trimester!



    • Allison :

      Oh Julia yes! It’s such a happy read it will help you sail through! Best of luck, you’re a champion (3rd trimester is tough!)

  5. Ashlie :

    Seriously. Favorite. Book. Ever. Always my first recommendation. Have read it too many times to count.