The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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The Guernsey Literary and

Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer,

Annie Barrows

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.

“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.

Review

The start to this review is going to reveal a little bit about me that might not end up endearing me to other people and I have to live with it. I generally try to avoid books about the World Wars I and II. I know it would affect me in such way that would leave me horrified and upset for days to come and so, even though I have read a few books on the topic, I generally shy away from them.

However, in this case, I didn’t. For one, I came to know about the book after I watched the trailer to the film (another book I only came to know about after the film was ready to release. This is happening far too often for my comfort.) and I thought it sounded interesting so I looked it up and found that there was a book and it had existed for a while now. You can imagine my dismay over it all, it’s every bookworm’s nightmare, to be unaware of a good book.

From the reviews I read (no spoilers in them, thankfully), it didn’t seem like the sort of book that would devastate me at the end of it. Thankfully, I was right. It didn’t devastate me but it did give me a new perspective to look at. It wasn’t the usual (and often entirely warranted) hard-hitting look at the whole World Wars but it was more. It was the aftermath and yet, there were signs of destruction everywhere. People, homes, lives, nothing was spared during those horrendous years and the author didn’t shy away from that.

She did however focus on the people who were picking up their lives and that gave it such a hopeful note. The story starts with the introduction to Juliet Ashton and how she’s coping with her rather unexpected (for her) and daunting success of her book and the book tour afterwards. Then, she is in a sort of an in-between in her life, and then she gets a letter from Dawsey Adams. Her life changes after that.

The whole novel’s format is through letters and it was a bit hard at first to get into it. I have recently realised that I am so used to the traditional novels that I often have trouble with the ones that aren’t set in such a way. However, the characters in this book make sure that the reader is entranced by them soon enough. Almost every character I read of, I loved them. Well, maybe not Mark but nobody likes Mark, ok? That’s one character I don’t mind not liking.

Throughout the book, the residents of Guernsey tell Juliet of what happened during the German Occupation and how they came to form The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The latter is explained pretty much in the beginning and I was left wondering what is left after this? I was quickly shown how much was left after that story. Every letter in the book contained a story of the character’s life and their hardships and I loved every moment of it.

From Eben, Kit, Dawsey, Isola, Amelia, Sydney to Elizabeth and Remy….each and every one of them was wonderful to read about. The letters gave such a lovely view of each character’s thought process. I think I started to really like Juliet in the first few pages and then, that love grew and included almost all of the residents mentioned in the book. (Again, Mark not included, nor were two others that I shall not mention. Spoiler-free and all that.) I felt every character and fell in love with the idea of Elizabeth McKenna. What a badass woman that was! I loved Sydney with his astute observations about the people around him, I loved Sophie for keeping Juliet sane. I will not go on about every one of them but trust me, if you read the book, you will love them as much as I do now.

When I said that this book isn’t for the hard-hitting facts, I was correct but even the cozy and almost cute-sy feeling of the book cannot hide the horrors of the concentration camps and I am glad for that. This has been a criticism point for this book, that it’s too twee and at times, I could understand how people would think that. However, the one thing in its favour is the book’s quirky and truly endearing characters. I can’t stress it enough.

The one thing I didn’t much care for was the ending, I found it too abrupt and odd. It left me feeling as if I hadn’t really finished the book, I felt as if there was still more that was kept from me. Other than that, I really loved the book.

I will stop here because otherwise, I will babble infinitely. With this book, I have started in a new direction. Reading about the World War I and II. I have already picked up a few books I want to read and I am in the process of getting them, so be on the lookout for the new reviews.

I would recommend it to the people who want to see hope at the end of an horrible war, of people picking up the pieces and living their life, of people still trying to deal with the loss and horror but not losing their will to live. If you had been wanting to read about the World War II and wanted to read something lighter then this is the book for you. At the end of the day, this is the sort of feel-good book that you might want to read. It gives us hope.

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