Monday, September 28, 2009

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

Also reviewed by Kari and Anne, one of our guest reviewers.

Summary: 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 the 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 arrests 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.

My review: I expected a lot of this book. So many people have been going off about it's greatness that I was hoping it would be really good (and fearing it would one of those books that gets so built up in my mind that it turns out to be a big fat flop - like Atonement).

It took me a while to get into the story because I've been busy with other things and wasn't able to sit down for more than two minutes at a time. The good news is, since this book is composed almost entirely in letters, it was easy to read in short bursts. It wasn't, however, very good that way. I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about or connect with the story, emotions, and characters. I thought it was interesting, but not particularly extraordinary.

However, once I was actually able to sit down and dedicate a good chunk of time to this book, I found myself devouring letter after letter--promising myself that each one would be the last --and then reading just one more. I stayed up well past 2 AM to finish because I couldn't bear not knowing how it was going to end.

And so it turns out that I loved this book! From Juliet's defiant spirit and the unusual beginnings of the literary society, to it's vivid and quirky members -- each letter was an absolute treat. The authors' interjections of humor, horror, history, and romance in to the storyline were aptly placed and, when I closed this book, I was sad to lose the company of such thoroughly engaging characters. I highly recommend it to anyone that is looking for a book that will make them sigh when they finish it and think about it long after.

My rating: 5 Stars

Sum it up: A fascinating piece of historical fiction that needs to be consumed to be truly appreciated.

1 comment:

Anne Bennion said...

So glad that you liked it. I have a hard time reminding myself that the characters in the book were fictional, and not people that I actually know. One of these days, I am going to say in a conversation, purely by accident, "Oh, that sounds like a something that happened to one of my friends..." and then go on to tell at story about Juliet.


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