Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Country: US (July 29, 2008)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Challenges: War Through the Ages
If it had not been for all of the reviews that I read on book blogs, I would never have picked up this novel. Quite honestly, the title was a bit too awkward for me and rather unappealing. I know that for some it piqued their interest, for me, the effect was quite the opposite. Because of this, every time I went to the bookstore and saw it on the best seller's shelf, I'd walk right by. But then...this little book began appearing on every (or so it seemed) book blog that I read. And the reviews were enticing. I went ahead and requested it from the library, waited on the wait list for about a month, and finally read it last week.
It is a World War II book. In quick summary - the leading character, Juliet, is a journalist on a book tour after her collection of war editorials were published. As it happens, one of her used books has found itself on a tiny little island on the coast of England - Guernsey. A gentleman of the name Dawsey writes Juliet about an mutually enjoyed author - Charles Lamb - and thus begins the correspondence between London's Juliet and Guernsey's Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Through the letters, Juliet begins to learn about the grave moments Guernsey Island's inhabitants shared while under German occupation. She learns of the friendships that develop and the love of reading amongst in the hopes to emotionally battle the circumstances. Juliet grows close to the members and eventually travels to the island to see if there are enough stories to justify a book.
This novel however is so much more than just one story. It's the story of the shared love of books, yes. But it's also a love story told in present and past. Juliet is courted by the overambitious and established "catch" Mark who wines and dines her in London and tries to follow her to Guernsey. Through letters we learn of the love story between a Guernsey Islander, Elizabeth and German soldier, Christian. This relationship is told with a tragic conclusion.
Further, the book is a story of humanity. The authors do not creep past the reality that we do not live in a black and white existence. They boldly show how the islanders, even though devastated by the circumstances of war, could still befriend some of the german soldiers that occupied their homeland. Shaffer and Barrows revealed the devastation and starvation that occurred to the town people, the servants, and eventually the soldiers. When one scene showed a soldier committing a horrific act, an alternating page might show a german soldier with compassion, sneaking medicine to help a sickly islander.
The characters were three-dimensional. I could picture these letters existing, being found dusty and tied with a ribbon while kept in a shoe box, hidden up in someone's attic until found and published. I put the book down feeling as though I could research and find the young child, Kit, and ask her about her life now that she's grown. The authors were daring to set the novel up in a collection of letters, and I'm so glad that they did. I don't know if the novel would have had the same affect if they didn't.
If you haven't read GLPPPS I highly recommend picking it up. If you have a large TBR list (as I do) put it aside for a bit and curl up with this book for a while. It deserves a comforter, cup of tea, and your full attention!