Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” 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. (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

What a sweet and uplifting book! Seriously. I laughed several times and found the characters highly endearing- in a book that takes place during (actually, just after) WWII in areas occupied or bombed by the Germans.

Juliet wrote a semi-weekly column during WWII in London, bringing humor to the ravaged landscape around her. After the war, though, Juliet is tired of trying to be light-hearted and witty about the war and starts her search for her next muse. It's at this time that she receives a letter from an inhabitant of Guernsey Island, the only part of Englad to be occupied by Germany during the war.

Dawsey, the writer of the letter, says that he found a book that used to belong to Juliet in a used-book shop, and he is interested in finding more books by that author, would Juliet please help him find books since it's difficult to get new books to the island. This letter sets off a series letters between Juliet and many of the inhabitants of Guernsey.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a novel in epistolary form (letters between characters). This style worked for the book since that is how many people still communicated in the 1940s, especially since the Germans had cut the cable from Guernsey to the mainland. However, it's not my favorite style of writing since I think it can prevent a depth to characters that you can get in first or third person narrations. But overall, I think the authors did a great job creating fun and quirky characters through their letters to one another.

The main thing that I enjoyed about the characters was the funny and light-hearted characters. They had all just experienced terrible tragedies in the war, yet they maintained their human-ness enough to come out of the war with their sense wit still about them. I also loved that what kept them human was books and the community they formed in their literary society. Each member of the society had a particular book that they loved to read and talk about, and this kept them free of being sucked completely into the wartime melancholy.

The one part that I did not like was the ending. Because the book is written in letters, there are no chapters or natural breaks in the story. When I got to the end of the book.... it just didn't feel like the end. The things that I wanted resolved were still left open. If you've read this book, what did you think of the ending? Did it end too quickly for you too?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a fairly quick book to read and I highly recommend it for someone looking to read a enjoyable book about people of love books and their community, and those who want to read something based during WWII.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this book a lot-I learned a lot about WWII in the channel island from it-great review