Monday, June 17, 2013

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

(Longest title ever, but don't let it scare you, the book is too good).

Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads): 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.

Oh my, what a delightful little read this was! I mean, who doesn't love a good epistolary novel? Honestly, I kept thinking the whole time while reading this that letters really are a lost art form. Wouldn't it be such fun to get letters like this from other people? Then I started thinking that maybe I should write letters to my friends. You know, the ones who wouldn't think it was weird, but would totally get it and respond in kind. I fancy I have a few friends who would write me back. Maybe.

But I digress.

Frankly, this little book was so much fun. I can't say it's huge on plot. It's a little wandering, lots of little side anecdotes, and I was really confused about the who the love interest was supposed to be until the last quarter of the book. But other than that I just loved it.

First, the characters. Juliet was, of course, my favorite, mostly because she's the type of person I think I'd like to be if I were actually brave enough to be a professional writer and throw tea pots at disrespectful reporters and go off to live on romantic little islands in the middle of the English Channel. Juliet was so clever and funny, yet thoughtful and considerate and smart and deep. Even if I'm not her (far too sensible, and introverted), I would love to be her friend. Or pen pal at the very least. Such hilarious letters!

But the rest of the characters were just as magnificent. Quirky, eccentric, adorable, fantastic cast of minor characters here. I loved the voice of every single one of them, although there were quite a few to keep straight. Still, I don't think I've read such fun caricatures since Dickens (maybe these types of characters must be British?)

Second, this book was hilarious. Maybe this is not everyone's kind of humor, but really, British humor is the best. So witty and clever and dry. More, please.

Finally, I enjoyed the historical aspect of this immensely. I had no idea that some British islands were occupied by the Germans during WWII. I'm not sure how many of the anecdotes in this book were taken from fact and how many were purely fictitious, but the story of the German occupation was fascinating. I didn't know this was a WWII novel when I picked it up, but I'm glad I didn't because I probably would've been a lot more wary of it. I tend to think that WWII historical fiction is a dead horse that's been beaten one too many times. But have no fear, this is not a typical WWII book. What I mean is, the war is over. This is much more a story of people trying to piece their lives together after the war, come to terms with what they experienced, and that is such a unique angle that I hardly even though of this as WWII historical fiction. There were some poignant moments, but not heavy. It was very well balanced.

Hm, I think I've rambled enough here, but I highly recommend this book to all. It is simply delightful.

No comments:

Post a Comment