The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
April’s pick for my book club, so I was clearly impatient. I originally read the book in 2009 and was eager to reread it and see if I still liked it as much as I had back then.
I may have even loved it more, as this time around I was able to pace myself a bit better and wasn’t wondering how certain events would resolve.
What do I love?
- It’s an epistolary book. I have such a soft spot for this form of fiction that I’m predisposed to like any book that does it well.
- It’s historical, set just after World War II, one of my favorite time periods about which to read.
- The main character is appealing. She’s fun and witty and charming and yet still completely relatable. I absolutely feel like if she were real and we were to meet, we’d be friends.
- Books play a key role in the story. Of course I love that.
- There’s emotional depth, but there is also lots of warmth. In other words, it’s not bleak and unrelentingly grim, despite some heart-wrenching events. I don’t like bleak. Go ahead and bring me to tears in your book, but give me some hope and joy. Or at least the hope for eventual joy.
What do I not love?
- The title makes it harder to recommend. I feel like I end up saying, no, really, I know the title is odd. Roll with it; it’ll all become clear. Once people are reading it I think the title is great because it is so memorable (even though invariably I want to leave out the word “peel” from the title. Plus I can never seem to spell “Guernsey” correctly on the first try.) But getting more relucatant readers to get past the unusual title sometimes takes some work.
- That there won’t be more by the authors. Annie Barrows has several books in print, but her aunt died before this one was even published, so there won’t be another one with Shaffer’s voice and input, which makes me very sad.
I often am nervous about recommending books too strongly, because I’m afraid that unrealistic expectations may then lead to people not enjoying the book as much as they would if they hadn’t gone in anticipating the BEST BOOK EVER! So at times I try to hedge my bets – recommending a book just enough to get someone to read it, but not gushing over it as much as I really want to lest they wind up disappointed because of my hype.
This is precisely one of those sorts of books. I want to gush. I want to push it on everyone, but I know that it’s not right for everyone, and I know that it might not live up to expectations if I rave too much. So I won’t exclaim about how highly I recommend it even though I want to. I’ll just say, give it a try.
Although a word of advice? Don’t pick it up too close to bedtime. You might regret that the next day.
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.
Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
My Rating: 5 Stars
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