Friday, December 28, 2012

Book review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

“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.

I loved this book. I really did.

The story is told in letters between Juliet and her friends (and a few writers who aren't friends at all). Apparently the book was suuuper popular a couple years back, but I never heard of it. I think I just found it in my Goodreads recommendations.

Bad reviews on Goodreads say it is nice, cute, and hokey-ish. Some accuse the authors of not being good writers. I'll admit, it is the kind of story that (mostly) wraps up in the end with a nice pretty bow. And it's somewhat predictable.

But there were three things I really loved about this book:

ONE. Like The Book Thief, this book showed WWII from a perspective I'd never seen before. This one is after the war and in the homes of a country occupied by German soldiers. It showed how  people who weren't Jewish/homosexual/otherthingstheNazishated people. While we're all familiar(ish) with the story of concentration camps and hiding from the Nazis, I'm not so familiar with the everyday lives of those left behind. I loved learning about the occupation, about families sending their kids to the mainland to live with families where there was no occupation, about when an islander fell in love with a German soldier and what that meant for her. I want to/need to investigate the historical accuracy of some of the things mentioned, but if they really happened... wow.

TWO. This book had beautiful language and wonderful characters. I will have to reread it (and actually read it as opposed to listening to it) because there were some lovely phrases I'd like to have written down somewhere. The characters were endearing and funny and sweet and quirky and they were people I'd like to know in real life. I definitely wished for good things for the characters, and you know that means I connected with them.

THREE. It reminded me of old-school romances, like those of Jane Austen. But easier to read and perhaps more well done. All the characters were very proper and it was easy to imagine it took place in that time frame rather than after WWII.

All in all I gave it four stars. (initially it had five, but I'm trying to be more reserved with my five-star stamp of approval)

Have any of you read this book? What did you think of it? I could never remember the name of it to tell anyone what I was reading! 


Kate said...

I forgot all about this book! I read it a little over a year ago and LOVED it!

At first, I was a little disappointed because I think my Mom built it up too much. But the time I had finished it, I realized that it really was amazing. Can't believe I forgot about it!

Shoshanah said...

This book has me intrigued. I've read some great reviews of it, but also some reviews where people really hated it. I would like to pick it up eventually, but don't necessarily see that happening anytime soon.

Suze said...

I liked this book a lot too. It was a fun read, and I don't think it was every trying to be some high-brow intellectual wonder. The reviews don't give it credit for the sweet story and the quirky characters.


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