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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Book Review

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.

20 Comments

  1. Gayla Collins(weeklyreaders) Gayla Collins(weeklyreaders)
    July 31, 2008    

    A beautiful review for what appears to be a beautiful book. I will order it as soon as it is released.

    Thank-you;
    Gayla

  2. July 31, 2008    

    What a wonderful review-thank you. I’ve got this one on hold at the library and have been hearing so many good things about it that I can’t wait to read it.

  3. July 31, 2008    

    I read this recently and absolutely loved it. One part 84, Charing Cross Road, one part Barbara Pym. I keep seeing other reviews popping up here and there, and its good to know that other people are liking this as much as I did.

  4. July 31, 2008    

    Gayla: Thank you 🙂 The book was just released on July 29th 🙂

    Darlene: It is a fabulous book…the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. You’re in for a treat!

    Katherine: I have yet to read 84 Charing Cross Road and now I think I must! This was just such a joy to read…rarely do you find a book like this – one that almost reads itself.

  5. July 31, 2008    

    This must be the third time this week I’ve read about this book! 5 stars … MUST HAVE! It’s officially on my virtual TBR pile now.

  6. July 31, 2008    

    I have been reading some very glowing reviews of this book and put it on my TBR. Your review seals it, I must read this book. You and I have such simular tastes, that I know I can’t go wrong with this one!

  7. July 31, 2008    

    Laura, my bookie-soulmate, you will most definitely LOVE this book…trust me 🙂

    Teddy, all the reviews are to be believed. I know you will love this book as I did!!

  8. August 1, 2008    

    This one is definitely going on the tbr pile, thanks. The bit about the name on the fly-leaf and books making their way to those places and people where they will be appreciated reminded me of a book that Geranium Cat leant me last year. She had picked it up in a second hand shop hundreds of miles from me and yet when it arrived I found a stamp in it that indicated that it had started life in a school library just five miles down the road from where I live. I felt like taking it home!

  9. August 1, 2008    

    Fabulous review. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book. Thanks so much for posting.

  10. August 1, 2008    

    I must confess that the title of this one doesn’t really feel like a HF title. Having read the review though, this is definitely going on my TBR list as well. In fact I think it might make a perfect book for a challenge that I am thinking about signing up for!

    Thanks for the review.1

  11. August 2, 2008    

    added to my wishlist … if only I can keep the title straight when talking about it!

  12. August 2, 2008    

    This is the second time I’ve seen an excellent review of this (both from bloggers whose taste I trust). Looks like I need to get to this one sooner rather than later.

  13. August 2, 2008    

    Ann: GREAT story!!! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I love those kinds of things!

    Diane: You’re welcome – can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

    Marg: The title I think will create some confusion! But it is definitely historical 🙂

    Dawn: LOL…happy reading!

    Suzi: This has been getting great reviews everywhere … and for good reason. A must read for sure!

  14. Lori Barnes Lori Barnes
    August 3, 2008    

    I have saw some really good reviews on this one too just in the last week. I have added this to my WL of must have’s.

  15. August 3, 2008    

    Lori: There is a big marketing push right now because the book was just released 🙂

  16. August 4, 2008    

    It’s going to take one heck of a great book to knock this one out of its #1 spot for my 2008 Top Ten list!

    Lovely review, Wendy.

  17. August 6, 2008    

    Les: I agree!! Glad to see it was a winner for you too 🙂

  18. August 9, 2008    

    Hmm . . . sounds like another one is headed for the TBR list. I loved that quote at the beginning.

  19. August 9, 2008    

    I found myself bookless today with a wait in the doctors surgery and so I bought this one. So far it is good, and I really want to get into it more to find out what is going on.

  20. August 10, 2008    

    Natasha: there were so many quotes like that one which I wanted to use!

    Marg: Oh, hope you’ll love it as I did. I’ll look forward to your review!

No Pings Yet

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  2. Gleaned from the Saturday Review at Semicolon on August 5, 2008 at 18:31
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  4. The ARC Reading Challenge on August 8, 2008 at 15:52
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  6. Giveaway - A Signed Copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society « Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? on November 2, 2008 at 17:43
  7. Review - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society « Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? on November 6, 2008 at 17:55
  8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows « Jenny’s Books on November 15, 2008 at 14:28
  9. 12 Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2009 at Semicolon on January 1, 2009 at 15:04
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  12. Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society « ReviewsbyLola's Blog on August 13, 2010 at 03:11
  13. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society « Jorie's Reads on August 25, 2011 at 09:52
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