Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review (long overdue!): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I’ve been reading a lot of YA and dystopian novels, but I thought I’d take a little time today to recommend a book that I meant to review over the summer, but somehow never got around to it.

I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own because the title seemed really obscure, but a member of my critique group recommended it.  A few of us had met for lunch at a Starbucks in Barnes and Noble and being book people, we couldn’t leave without a couple of treasures. (Watch the above video to find out more about this moving novel!)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows is a gem of a book that manages to be heartwarming, tragic, and informative all at the same time. 

In post-World War II, a writer – Juliet Ashton – searches for her next story, when she receives correspondence from a gentleman asking her to come to the island of Guernsey to speak at the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a group which sprung up out of desperation during the war and provided the people of the island rare moments of happiness at a time of great struggle and tragedy.

There are a few things that make this novel special:

1)   It is written entirely in letters.

2)   It is written immediately following World War II – a time period that I know little about and hadn’t really thought much of.  It addresses the after effects of the war on England and particularly, the small island of Guernsey (yes, it does exist!), as well as memories of the occupation of Guernsey by Germans during the war. 

3)   I learned much about the war that I hadn’t heard known before and considering the amount of books, movies, and documentaries on the subject, I was a little surprised by this.

4)   Even through letters, the characters come alive as quirky, strong, and immensely likable.

The novel is really about the characters – the Guernsey citizens – and their perseverance and resilience during tough times.  Even through tragedy, they come together in their literary society and find hope, support, and laughter.   

5)   There is even romance.  It seems hard to believe that a story – and a romance – can be conveyed so profoundly and touchingly through letters, but Shafer and Barrows succeed.  There is such a sweetness to the story – even as there is some sorrow – that I could not help but be uplifted at the end.

Over the summer, I lent this book to my best friend and hopefully, she’s enjoyed it as much as I have.  If you are interested in history, romance, or simply a moving story, I recommend this book.  

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