Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer
Genre: Historical fiction, epistolary

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads 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’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 love stories that are told in an unconventional way - in this case, letters and journal entries. The authors do a great job of conveying the relationships between characters and their personalities through their letters, and I really enjoyed reading their correspondences. I also really like historical fiction, so this book was right up my alley. I started out in love with this book, but as it went on, it lost a bit of its rosy glow. I still enjoyed it though!

Juliet is a writer who has decided she is done with her old column and would like to try something new. On her quest for a new subject, she stumbles across the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which came into being by accident as a result of the German occupation. A few residents of Guernsey had been at a gathering past curfew, feasting on a pig they had hidden from the German soldiers. When questioned, one of them spun a story about a book club, and so the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was born. Juliet is entranced by the colorful stories and characters she meets through these letters, and decides to learn more about their story, even if it means putting herself at odds with other people in her life. Through the light-hearted banter and playful letters, you also get a glimpse into the horrors of the German occupation.

I felt like this book tried to do too many things at once. It wanted to be a sweet story, and it was. It was simply adorable, as were all the characters. You can probably see the problem with having a cast of adorable characters and trying to point out the horrors of world war II. They were all just so sweet and their personal anecdotes made up so much of the story that the really terrible things came off as watered down or pushed to the background. The whole thing with Elizabeth could have been so much more controversial, but everyone sees the world in rosy-colored glasses so the reader is forced to do the same.

This is a cute story, and very enjoyable if that's what you're looking for. If you are looking for heavier stuff, look elsewhere.

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