The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Publisher: Dial Press (May 5, 2009)
Pages: 290 pages
“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.
I’m just going to say I’m completely fascinated by this book. As you can see this book is written as a series of letters, which I entirely loved. I concluded that this way we could only see what the characters were willing to let Juliet know. Nevertheless, at the same time, you would see letters from the same characters to other people and you would be rewarded with other hints of their personality.
Here we experience how WWII affected the Channel Islands in England. Children had to be sent off to England in a rush in order to survive away from their families and from what I understood, some of those children never got to see their families again. Moreover, people got arrested and got sent to prison camps all over Europe. This is without mentioning the famine and dirt everyone had to deal with. So, through these letters you can feel the aftershock of this war on every character and how they decided to deal with it.
One of our central characters, Elizabeth Mckenna was the one who founded this literary society as an alibi for breaking curfew and a having a pork dinner (a wholly privilege during those days). Even though, we never see a letter from this character, she’s mentioned in almost all of those that Juliet received from the people in Guernsey. Her story is then what inspires Juliet to write her next book thanks to Sidney, since he realized how this literary society existed and was unified because of her. Elizabeth’s life ended in complete tragedy besides being a person that cared and sacrificed herself for others. I’m going to express that this is the most heartbreaking part of the book. Especially since she left a little girl behind called Kit.
However, we also experience tons of humor with Isola’s eccentric personality and mysterious ways. I mean the woman makes potions, reads head bumps and apparently, she also rides motorcycles. She literally had me laughing out loud by myself (that rarely happens). We also had Juliet and her embarrassing moments (since I can identify with most of them) and her relationship with Dawsey. I mean he’s so shy and peaceful and you can feel Juliet’s intensity in comparison. The only thing I did not like that much is that they finally get together towards the very end of the book and I would’ve loved to read a bit more about their life together. In spite of this, it’s super funny to read about Juliet’s realization of her feelings toward him and how Isola tried to hook him up with another woman, only to bring Juliet and Dawsey closer.
Something I also enjoyed reading about was Kit’s and Juliet’s bond. The way she dotes on this child is just adorable but I think we have enough spoilers in this review for me to keep going!
I really hope the film will do justice to the significance of this story and I can’t wait to watch it! Here’s the trailer: