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    Virtual book club! First question!

    A reader posted a comment to one of our posts that got us thinking–why not pose the question to everyone? Think of this as an online book club discussion. From time to time, we’ll post questions, you weigh in with your thoughts!

    This one comes to us from Debbie Hernick, who said:

    I absolutely LOVED this book! My book group is discussing it next week and everyone is very excited. I have one question- why are there no letters from Sophie? Juliet references Sophie’s letters but the authors never show them to the reader. Any thoughts?

    What do you think? Do you see a reason the authors would have made this choice?

    Tags: , , , ,

    22 Responses to “Virtual book club! First question!”

    1. Lorna Barth says:

      So far I think that the author IS Sophie. But I may be wrong. It is a charming book and I want to slow down and enjoy it – but I can’t put it down for very long!

    2. Kimberly says:

      I am not yet through with the novel, but it seems as though the letters we see are from those whom she is immediately involved with and the ones who are affecting her life at the present time. It doesn’t seem as if we are reading about every aspect of her life, just this particular part.

    3. Caroline says:

      like kimberly said, i think that sophie’s letter’s aren’t featured because it isn’t a main point,
      also, sophie’s side story-letters would take away from the main plot.

    4. Kat says:

      She is there – we don’t need to read her words to get a feel for them. That is one of this book’s many strengths; we didn’t need to see every letter, every correspondence, to know exactly who everyone is.

    5. chris pierce says:

      I have spent two days in Key West Florida doing nothing but sitting by the pool reading this wonderful book (NO SHOPPING-unbelievable for me). I’ve just finished it and am in that wonderful state of just spending time thinking of everything I loved about the book.

      The question made me stop and think. I hadn’t really noticed that we didn’t get letters from Sophie. In my mind, she is a real character even though we don’t hear from her directly. I think that’s a good thing. The creation of a character who is real without needing a voice.

      This was on our book club list at the end of our school year (we’re teachers) and we weren’t able to get to this book. I saved it for the perfect time to have time to enjoy it without interruption. It will now be passed around to my daughter, mother and daughter-in-law.

    6. Suellen Beck says:

      Characters are placed in a story for a specific purpose. Sophie was Juliet’s sounding board. Juliet could ‘bounce’ ideas off Sophie that she could not do otherwise. The author used Sophie to round out Juliet’s thoughts and feelings. Her side of the story was unnecessary.

    7. Judy D. says:

      Sophie is busy raising a 3-year-old Dominic. She probably doesn’t have time to write letters.

    8. Melissa Kimmons says:

      Why do we NEED letters from Sophie? Sometimes, when listening to one side of a telephone conversation, it is possible to work out what is being said by the other party without actually hearing both sides of the conversation.

      So it is with Sophie — we can tell what she has written by Juliet’s responses. As the thrust of the book involves the residents of the island of Guernsey, it is not necessary for us to know what is going on on a farm in Scotland; we only need to get a whiff of how Sophie is responding to Juliet’s various pieces of news — regarding her romance with Mark, Sidney’s sudden disappearance to Australia, etc. Sidney is germain to the story of Juliet’s interaction with Guernsey because he is her publisher, her friend, and the person who can make happen the publication of possible heretofor unknown stories of Oscar Wilde; his visits to Guersey, and the emissaries he sends, allow us to see Juliet’s new friends interact with other people. Sophie cannot do any of those things; she can only serve as a means for Juliet to confide in a woman friend who has known her well since childhood.

      By the way, in response to Judy D’s comment that with a 3-yr-old she (Sopie) was probably too busy to write letters — when my father left for the War, my mother had 3 children under the age of 4, one with a severe birth defect that required that she feed him every 2 hours around the clock with a demitasse spoon, and she still managed to write letters to her mother and sisters. People who write letters will always have time to write.

    9. Belinda says:

      Most likely Sophie’s letters would be mostly about communicating how her family is doing if it were to be written as a genuine letter. She would probably only have asked a few questions and contributed a few insights but the general content of her letters would have mostly taken away from the true story. The authors did it right by just having Juliet restate the questions and answer them in her own letters to Sophie.

    10. Abby F. says:

      I’ve now listened to this book (on audio) twice in a row, and I did notice a lack of Sophie. I really liked the holes in this story, almost as much as I liked the story itself. As a reader, I imagined I somehow had tapped a complex spy network, and I was seeing all the letters that I and my covert team could find, and there were some that we couldn’t. A few of Sidney’s letters are missing too. I imagined that Juliet is saving all of Sophie’s letters somewhere safe, and that my spy network has not yet found them.

      It also occurred to me that the reader might be Sophie. Just a thought. I love that there are still puzzles left over after the book is done.

      My one criticism. I wish that we has a letter from Juliet to Sophie just after Isola’s last notebook entry about the scene in the big house with Dawsey, preferably with a little bit of insight into what Dawsey was thinking. It was right for him to disappear for a bit when he wasn’t talking to Juliet, but once they’re engaged he would have told her everything, and she would have went gushing to Sophie about how he had given up hope after he’d seen her with Mark, etc. But perhaps he’s just not that complicated. And perhaps I would rather not know. Perhaps It’s just none of my business… But I did miss him, and was sad not to be able to hear from him after that moment of realization. I’ll just have to talk to my spies about it…

    11. Kori Russell says:

      I had the same question. But as I thought about it from the authors’ point of view, I realized that she wouldn’t really have anything to say. Try to imagine what Sophie’s letters would have contained. I think she would have merely asked questions about Juliet’s life and experiences, which we see the answers in the Juliets letters. Sophie would have had stories about her son and her life, but they wouldn’t have had anything to do with the plot. In seeing only Juliet and Sidney’s responses to the letters, we know what questions Sophie’s letters consisted of, without having to insert the actual (redundant) letters from Sophie which would slow down the tempo of th story.

    12. Cindy Sullivan says:


      Great diagnosis! I hadn’t even noticed that Sophie didn’t actually write any letters. But the literary device did well serve the author’s purpose. Are you an English major?

    13. Lorelei says:

      Wow ! I certainly am in the presence of astute readers. I, too, did not notice the absence of letters from Sophie, I was so engrossed in reading the next letter, and the next.
      I thoroughly enjoyed this style of book. . . surprise, surprise. Are there any other such books about other German occupations during WWII. I am now reading as much as I can about survivors of German occupation wherever they lived.

    14. Elaine says:

      Have you noticed that there are parallel between Elizabeth and Jane and Sophie and Julia? Just as we never actually hear Sophie’s voice neither do we hear Elizabeth’s or Jane’s and yet all are critical to the story. One has the feeling that Elizabeth was a rather extraordinary individual and Julia would be the first to agree, and yet in her own way Julia is also for her time and place.
      The thing I loved best about the book is the characters are so individual and normal. No rock stars media hungry persons need apply for this tale. I find it full of interesting loving people like the ones I know in my life.

    15. Felicity says:

      I loved this book too and have passed it around to my mum, husband, mother-in-law, etc. Even my 14 yo son was so sick of hearing us refer to it he declared his intention of reading it.

      Lorelei: ‘Suite Francaise’ by Irene Nemirovsky is another wonderful book about the German occupation of a small town in France. A very different book but wonderful too. Translated from the french, it is heavily autobiographical and was written contemporaneously.

    16. Wendi says:

      I asked this question to by book club! Sophie wrote letters, because Juliet would often start her letters by responding to her questions. Which debunks the not having time to write theory. I did not however realize that waht she would have to said would not add to the story. She would talk about her brother breaking his leg, her husband, her child and expecting child. This would have probably annoyed all of us!

    17. Denise Clancy says:

      I found the book an absolute gem and was unable to put it down hence staying up until 2am to finish it in about 5 hours. The letter form was extremely interesting and easy to read and the information about the occupation was essential reading for the next generation. Thank you for a lovely story which was beautifully written. Sophie was certainly well represented in the book and I don’t think that we needed a letter from her to further the story.

    18. Louise says:

      I agree that we don’t need Sophie’s actual letters to get a feel for how important she is to Juliet – best friends can continue conversations no matter how long it is between letters or calls! I have another question – how often have you found a shop assistant as astute as Sophie and Juliet (see 23rd January 1946 entry)? I found one who brilliantly directed me to this book in a similar fashion to this entry – and I intend to recommend her for a pat on the back from her employer as I will also continue to shop there based on her stunning suggestion! What is it about good book shops that we like or dislike?

    19. Ms Houpapa says:

      I have spent the first two days of our school holidays (I am an English teacher) reading for pleasure. Oh what a joy that is! The second book in my pile was this wonderful book. I feel that I am truly changed for the better.

      I had noticed the lack of letters from Sophie but thought that it was indeed a genius technique. Sophie is just as alive for us as she was to Juliet.

      Have to say that I did get a fright when I realised that Dawsey was a lot younger than I had originally pictured him!

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