Quite a title on this one! In truth, that’s what intrigued me and repelled me all at the same time. Initially, I reasoned that a book with a title like that had to have something interesting about it, so when I saw it at a used book sale, I snatched it right up. Once I got it home, however, it was a different story. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society sat on my shelf for the better part of a year, waiting oh-so-patiently to be read. Every time I reached for a new book, my hand paused at this selection. Far too much alliteration, far too verbose a title, I thought, and moved onto something else. This week, however, my hand paused there per usual — and accepted the challenge. Come to find out, discovering the origins of this lengthy moniker became one of my favorite things about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! In fact, I was wrong about a great many things about this endearing book, the title being but one.
Set on the English Channel island of Guernsey, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tells the story of an unwitting group of bibliophiles united by necessity during the time of World War II German occupation. The story unfolds in the form of letters written to and from London author Juliet Ashton in the year 1946. Having enjoyed great commercial success with a wartime serial, Miss Ashton is struggling to find inspiration for her next piece. The receipt of a letter from islander Dawsey Adams, however, provides her with the direction she needs. Through his letters, and ultimately those of other Guernsey Islanders, Juliet learns of both the Literary Society and the wartime experiences of the island’s residents, befriending many and learning a great deal about herself in the process.
Initially, I thought that a book written entirely in letters would be tiresome and disjointed, but surprisingly, it was not. The unusual format created an intimacy so appropriate for the deeply personal stories contained within, with each character introduced and each relationship explored in the most natural of ways. Endearing, charming and witty are all adjectives I would use to describe The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; however, that belies the depth and realism of the piece as a whole. Just as in real life, there are moments of humor and tenderness amidst even the most difficult of circumstances, and the authors portray this beautifully while remaining respectful to the unspeakable tragedies that so many endured during this time.
Now, as for the secret of the Society’s name, that’s something I won’t divulge here. I’ll leave that for you to discover if you allow Shaffer and Barrows to take you on this memorable journey to the little island of Guernsey.
So, have you ever read a book written entirely in correspondence? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear from you!
Until then, happy reading!
Little Book Reviews