Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books. -From Isola Pribby to Juliet, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society-
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ first novel will certainly ruin you ‘for enjoying bad books.’ Set on the island of Guernsey (in the Channel Islands) in the months following the Second World War, the novel is written as a series of letters between Juliet Ashton and the diverse characters who people the story. Juliet is struggling to find a subject for her next book when she unexpectedly receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a pig farmer from Guernsey, who discovered Juliet’s name in the flyleaf of a Charles Lamb book.
I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true. -from Dawesy Adams to Juliet, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society-
Dawsey’s letters pique Juliet’s interest in the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (a society impulsively created as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by German soldiers), and she begins to trade correspondence with the society’s other members. Through these letters (as well as exchanges between Juliet and her literary agent, her new boyfriend in London, and her best friend Sophie) the story about the German occupation of Guernsey and its effects on the island’s residents begins to unfold.
We started out hopeful, sure they’d be gone in six months. But it stretched on and on. Food grew hard to come by, and soon there was no firewood left. Days were grey with hard work and evenings were black with boredom. Everyone was sickly from so little nourishment and bleak from wondering if it would ever end. We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us. -from Eben Ramsey to Juliet, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society-
One character, Elizabeth, is introduced not through her voice, but through the voices of those who knew and loved her. It is this character that provides the glue which binds all the characters together and gives us a glimpse into what it means to maintain one’s humanity in the face of tragedy.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a heartfelt and captivating book about a small community of people connected through their love of literature and the trauma of war. The novel is deeply satisfying due in large part because of Shaffer and Barrows’ sharp wit coupled with a discerning eye towards what makes characters memorable and unique. Book lovers will relate to the authors’ astute observations of literature and the healing power of sharing a book with a good friend. This is a novel which makes the reader laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. Beautifully written with warmth and humor, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is highly recommended.