We had long planned to visit the Channel Islands, which cluster in the English Channel between England and France, nearer France. The islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Sark and Alderney, are famous for their great beauty. We visited only Jersey and Guernsey, where the flowers and sea views are breathtaking. We loved being there, and hope to return.
We didn’t find books with beautiful detailed descriptions of any of the Islands, except for those in Elizabeth Goudge’s charming books:
Now they were slipping along beside the Island. It lay on the sea like a sleeping animal, the rocks at its northern end stretched out like claws. Then gradually, as it emerged from the sunset mist, trees, houses, churches and forts became faintly visible. In the half light it took on the semblance of a faerie land, a withdrawn, unreal country, a mirage in the midst of the sea, showing a little and no more of its beauty, holding the rest jealously locked away…Colin watched as the Island permitted the beauties of its coastline to appear one by one, held them for a moment of time before his eyes, and then, as the boat sped on, drew them back once more into the mist.
First came the long, low levels of the northern sands, golden as a ripe cornfield, edged with the silver and lilac of sea-poppy and sea-lavender, melting imperceptibly into rolling wind-swept stretches of common. Here and there, peeping from behind the shelter of grey-green hillocks, were cottages, their walls washed with white or rose colour, roofed with grey slate…
…The long seawall stood grimly fronting the waves, while behind its rampart were heaped the house of St. Pierre, the Town of the Island. These were higgledy-piggledy houses, some high, some low, built of weather-stained grey granite, their uneven roofs rose-red against the sky. In the midst of them, like a hen amongst her brood, towered the tower of the Town church. Beyond the town the country began again, but it was a very different country from the wild waste at the northern end of the Island. Here, beyond St. Pierre, were little rocky bays and above them rounded hills tree-covered and parting, now and again, to show green meadows and prosperous farms hid in their hollows. (From Island Magic, Elizabeth Goudge)
Above the harbor the old town of St. Pierre clung to the steep, rocky hillside as though afraid the storms that swept over the Island would blow it away altogether. It was built of grey granite, stained and weather-worn, and the irregular line of its climbing roofs, with the steep, twisting gullies of narrow cobbled streets, made it look more like a pile of rock fretted by wind and water than a town built by man. On stormy days, when the grey waves of the English Channel thundered against the harbor wall and the spray seemed trying to reach the low racing clouds, the town looked black and ominous; but on fine days, when ripples of an unbelievably deep blue lapped softly against the old grey stone and the clear sky seemed curved over the Island in the semblance of a crystal dome, the town too seemed to soften and relax; to catch the reflection of the sky in pools among the cobbles and the warmth of the sun in the yellow-lichened roofs.
…the window of his sitting-room at the back looked straight out on to the harbor, and when he peeped through the scarlet geraniums that filled it he could see the Islands lying like chunks of uncut opal in the blue water, and beyond them, on clear days, the long, low shape of France. (From Make Believe, Elizabeth Goudge)
We acquired a fairly long list of books about the islands, which might be useful to those considering a visit to the Islands.
Binding, Tim, Island Madness. 1998 (Guernsey during the German occupation during World War II)
Bunting, Madeleine. The Model Occupation, 1995, 2004 (The Channel Islands under German rule 1940-45)
Cone, Libby. War on the Margins, 2009 (Jersey during World War II)
De Garis, Marie. Folklore of Guernsey, 1975 (Fairytales, ghosts, ancient customs, etc.)
Edwards, G.B. The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, 1981 (Chronicle of a life spent on Guernsey)
George, Elizabeth. A Place of Hiding, 2003 (Contemporary murder mystery set in Guernsey)
Goudge, Elizabeth. Island Magic, 1934 (A delightful children’s book set in 19th-century Guernsey)
Goudge, Elizabeth. Make Believe (Short stories about the characters introduced in Island Magic)
Hugo, Victor. The Toilers of the Sea, 1866 (The story of an illiterate fisherman in the Channel Islands. Intended to be part of a triptych with Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Leroy, Margaret. The Soldier’s Wife, 2011 (Romance set in Guernsey during World War II)
Mackenzie, Compton. Fairy Gold, 1926 (A love story set on the Island of Merg, the name the author gave to Crevichon, on his own island, Herm)
Robinson, Derek. Kramer’s War, 1977 (Kramer is an American airman shot down over Jersey, where he tries to incite a resistance movement)
Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, 2004 (A marvelous best-selling novel, set in Guernsey during World War II)
Walters, Guy. The Occupation, 2005 (Thriller, set in Alderney in 1945, and in 1990)
Island at War. (Set on the fictional island of St. Gregory, drawing on the experience of Channel Islanders under Nazi occupation.) Masterpiece Theatre, DVD, 2004.
Enemy at the Door. Series 1 (2002) and 2 (2002), London Weekend Television, Granada, DVD, Channel Islands during WWII
Higgins, Jack. Night of the Fox. Miniseries. Allied special agents must rescue (or kill) a U.S. Navy Colonel on German-held Jersey before Nazis learn secrets about D. Day plans. (As seen on A&E.)
* Thanks to Dr. Barbara Welter for her contributions to this list.