Friday, August 14, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This review comes to us from the lovely Anne Bennion, a stay at home mother of 4 wild boys who finds that reading is the easiest way to escape from all of the sports, guns, and super heroes that run rampant in her home. On a rainy day, you can most likely find her curled up with a historical fiction novel, a cup of hot cocoa, and a blanket. You can read another of her reviews here.

This book is also reviewed Mindy and Kari.

Summary: “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’d never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He’d come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the-moment way; as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society’s charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever. (Taken from the book flap)

My review: Who hasn’t felt anticipation while corresponding with someone via postal mail, a real handwritten letter, containing mistakes, touched by hands of someone who felt you special enough to take a moment to write to you? The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will make you want to forever put aside emails and texts and develop the lost long art of writing letters. Juliet, the main character in this book, is an author made famous by writing a weekly column about the war. She is desperately seeking something new to spark the writer’s block she is experiencing. Guernsey is that spark. Through letters from the most random people imaginable (and yet the most human and realistic), Juliet finds the need to set sail and discover something new. The thing that draws her: love of books. The letters they write are charming, full of truth, questions, flirtations, and the resilience of those who survived the occupation. I want to meet these people. Yes, I know these are fictional characters but who wouldn’t want to know the charming, determined Elizabeth who had the rare capacity to love, even a German soldier, or the quirky Isola who makes potions in her backyard and studies the bumps on someone’s head to determine their character.

I feel the need to add that the last 10 pages are not in letter format. They are things that the character Isola writes as she attempts to be a detective. There is a different feel to these pages, not a bad feel, just a little different. I was a bit sad that the big finale of the book wasn’t in letter format. I really wanted to hear direct from the characters mouths what was happening, not have it relayed to me by Isola. In the end, it does wrap everything up nicely so I can’t complain too much.

With that being said, I continually find myself drawn to this book, to sit down and read it in one day, to let myself believe that these fabulous people truly did exist. The Guernsey Islands are high on my list of foreign places to visit because I am quite sure that I will find traces of these characters somewhere on the island.

My rating: 5 Stars

To sum it up: A delightful book that will make you want to check your mailbox in hopes of finding a letter!


Irish said...

I have to agree this is one of my all time favourite books that I read last year and is will remind in my favourite books of all time :)

Heather said...

I have been wanting to read this forever. Your review has moved it much closer to the top of my must-read list. Thanks!

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

It's been awhile since I read this, but I must say, the ending left me flat. I think this must have been the addition of the second writer, not Mary Anne.
I loved the book, though.


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