Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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. -- The Dial Press

I was so very excited when the Preschool Moms Book Club selected THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows for our November selection. I have been wanting to read this book for awhile now because everyone seems to just love it! And as an extra bonus, I had just received the book in the mail as part of my three-month GiftLit package so I didn't have to go out and buy a book this month!

Oh my goodness, how I treasured this book. There are so many terrific reviews out there that I'm pretty sure I'm not going to say anything new, but I just enjoyed every minute of reading it and I can't wait to talk about it tonight with my friends. The book is written in the format of letters, and I will admit that it did take me a few pages to "get it." (You can read an excerpt of a few of the letters to see what I mean.) But once I established who the characters were and what their roles were, I was hooked!

I loved this novel for so many different reasons that I'm having a hard time articulating what I liked about it. I thought the writing was very good as was the character development. I absolutely adored Julia, but I also thought many of the characters in this novel were very unique and special. The various members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society were all wonderful people for variety of reasons, and they will no doubt remain with you long after reading this book. Despite being oppressed for years while their country was occupied by the Germans, these people managed to make the best of the circumstances and develop incredible friendships and relationships. I experienced such beautiful and uplifting feelings while reading this book and even after I finished it.

Another huge reason that I enjoyed this novel so much was it really showed the "power of books." As a huge book lover, I liked the overall message that books can open up so many possibilities in our lives. In THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, the German soldiers were going to arrest some of the characters because they were wondering around after their curfew. It was only because a quick thinking woman invented the story that they were a group that met to discuss books that they were "saved." After this incident, these people actually began meeting to discuss the various books they were reading. These people who were very isolated in many ways actually got to "live" through these books.

Not only did I find the book a pleasure to read, but I also found the history and background of Guernsey during World War II fascinating. I had absolutely no idea that the island was occupied by the Germans and that the Guernsey people weren't allowed to receive any news from the rest of the world. It's apparent to me that Ms. Shaffer did a great deal of research while writing this novel. And, I could tell that this book was a labor of love (both for Ms. Shaffer as well as her niece Annie Barrows who stepped in to finish it when she became ill.) Watch the video if you want to learn more about this book:

I am so excited to hear what my friends think about THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY tonight when we get together to discuss it. I've already taken a look at the discussion questions, and I think they are just perfect for us to talk about. I'll be writing later tonight to let you know how our meeting went; and I'll be announcing our December book club selection.

Also reviewed at:
Sincerely Stacie


Anonymous said...

I'll be interested to see what your friends think, too. I loved the book. It made me miss the art of letter writing - email's just not the same.

melanie said...

i loved this too. i think i'll be giving it to a lot of people for xmas.

Michele said...

This is definitely on my must read list. Maybe I'll ask for it for christmas!

Anna said...

I've heard so many good things about this book! I can't wait to read it. I bought it a few months ago, and I have a few more book commitments left before I can dig into it! I've always been fascinated with the WWII era, and I love books written in letters, so I'm sure I will love it.

Diary of an Eccentric

Anonymous said...

This is a great and very quick read--no need to worry about finding the time! A couple of spare hours will do it! I loved it and have recommended it to many people--our book group loved it also!

Marg said...

I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing new people become fans of this fantastic little book!

S. Krishna said...

I really need to read this one before Christmas so I can take my copy home to my sister and make her read it!

Stacie said...

I have read and reviewed this book on my blog. I loved it!

Sandra said...

You write great reviews. Mine are short because I don't like to give away any story details and I can't think of much to say except that I enjoyed it or I didn't.

I really enjoyed this book too and reviewed it here: