The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I found this book delightful. It was a sweet, fun read, while still having real content.
I wasn’t sure if an entire book written in letters would appeal to me, particularly in audio. Having a different narrators for the different letter writers was brilliant. Not only did it help keep track of the characters, but it helped bring each one to life. I really enjoyed the voices and the accents.
Even with that, I did struggle to keep the characters straight when I was about 1/3 of the way in. Others that read the book on paper said they had the same issue. If I hadn’t been planning to discuss the book at my book club and then review it for my blog (and other places) I wouldn’t have worried about it. Luckily, the confusion didn’t last long.
The book was able to keep a nice balance between the good and the bad in the two storylines intertwined throughout the book.
The first was the story of Juliet, a young woman who is a writer in post WWII England. She’s trying to figure out where she fits in, as she tracks down a story to write about and dates a very eligible man who wants to provide her with everything he thinks she needs. She’s a pleasant yet still interesting character.
The second is the story told by the people on Guernsey, their recollections of life under German occupation during WWII. The Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is formed as a cover when a group is caught out late, and provides them with unexpected sustenance through a very difficult time. One by one, they relate their experiences to Juliet, building relationships that draw her to the island to learn more about them, their stories, and herself.
Being a book person myself, I liked learning about the books that each islander selected to read during the occupation. For the most part, they had not been big readers before the formation of the society, but each managed to find something relevant to them.
The characters are wonderful and quirky. The variety of views of each of them and their relationships really help them come alive. They really felt like they comfortably belonged in their era, rather than being modern people dropped in an older setting.
I hadn’t been familiar with the island of Guernsey, and I wasn’t aware of its occupation. This book club has read a number of books relating to WWII (a quick scan of the list says 8 in just over 3 years) and this is another different perspective from anything else we’ve read.
It was a good choice for discussion, but I wouldn’t wait for a book club meeting to read it.