The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This one came highly recommended by friends. One of the readers said she wanted to go settle in Guernsey by the time she was through with the book. That thought impressed me. The book did have the most intriguing title. It was a book about book-lovers, I thought I’d like that. And so before I knew it I was at Amazon placing my order.
I came away with mixed feelings.
We follow the story through a string of letters that go back and forth between Juliet Ashton, a quirky World War journalist turned writer, and a group of people who lived in Guernsey during World War II. The war has just ended and a book once owned by Juliet lands up in the hands of Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey. The book has her name and address and the new owner writes to her asking her for the name and address of a London bookshop so he could order books. Dawsey belongs to a Literary Society called the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Intrigued by the name Juliet sets up a correspondence with Dawsey and then with each of its members. She is scouting for ideas for her new book and sensing a story in Guernsey, she travels there and finds much more than inspiration for her book.
What I liked
The book written in an epistolatory form (That’s what you call a narrative expressed through letters) was å first for me. I enjoyed the style though it took a little getting used to but then it was refreshing in its difference. I found myself waiting for the letters to come in. I loved the eclectic bunch of characters and their reading quirks.
I liked the joie de vivre that Juliet exudes. I like how she slowly gets to know the people of Guernsey through the letters and I liked the quiet contrast of Dawsey’s character.
I’ve said it before, I never can have enough of life during WWII. The book does give an account of life in Guernsey under German occupation – the shortages, the hunger, the hiding, the heartbreak of separation, the dread of being caught during night curfews.. all of it.
What I didn’t like
My first impression of the book was ‘How sweet is this’ and that ended up being my biggest problem too – it was far far too sweet; sweet in a simplistic, superficial kind of way. There is barely a cloud on the horizon. You know way before the end that things will fall into place. Everyone is just so nice. I like happy endings but only when they come after a decent plot and some twists and turns.
Also, the ending: as usual the ending is way too predictable and completely unbelievable. Those aren’t contradictory. Consider this – Juliet – a fairly high-profile writer based in London, being wooed by a flamboyant suitor (and enjoying it too), used to nights of fine dining and dancing in pretty clothes should give it all up and settle down in a quiet village with a man who unloads ships for a living. Romantic? Sure. Plausible? Hardly!
It seems unlikely that Juliet would enjoy the quiet life forever. Forever is a long time.
However, if you like a fresh, frothy, witty, easy read with snippets of the second World War you’ll like this one.