Monday, August 09, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

“ 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.

When I read a book that has been recommended to me, I very seldom read the book description. So when I picked up this book with, perhaps, the most unsual title I've come across, I was immediately intrigued. I had no idea what it was about and I didn't much care. I just wanted to read it. Now that I have, I can say that this is one of my very favorite reads this year. Here's why....

First of all, this book is done in all letters. While it is not the first book I have read in this style, it was by far the most well done.

Next: Juliet may be one of my favorite characters I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. She is witty and charming and someone that I would just really love to call my friend.

I have always had this odd obsession with World War II. I'm not really sure why. It is just intriguing and heartbreaking to me. I love that this book is set immediately following the war and you hear not only of the aftermath, but the entire book is a collection of experiences DURING the war and how it affected so many in millions of different ways.

I am so glad that this book was not done from just one person's point of view or even in third person narrative. I don't think I would have liked it much at all. The letters make each character's voice unique. Here's an example in some of my favorite quotes:

Lamb also taught Hunt’s youngest daughter to say the Lord’s Prayer backward. You naturally want to learn everything you can about a man like that. (Juliet to Dawsey)

Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books. (Isola to Juliet)

I think you learn more if you are laughing at the same time. (Booker to Juliet)

Now that we are corresponding friends, I want to ask you some questions--they are highly personal. Dawsey said it would not be polite, but I say that's the difference twixt men and women, not polite and rude. Dawsey's never asked me a personal question in fifteen years. (Isola to Juliet)

What on earth did you say to Isola? She stopped in on her way to pick up Pride and Prejudice and to berate me for never telling her about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. (Juliet to Sidney)

Mrs. Guilbert has always been a nasty one, but now I know that she can’t help it – she’s got a big pit in her Benevolence spot. She fell in the quarry when she was a girl, and my guess is that she cracked her Benevolence and was never the same since. (Isola to Sidney)

He (Dawsey) did not say much at our first meeting – nor at any of our meetings since, come to think of it – but let him walk into a room, and everyone in it seems to breathe a little sigh of relief. I have never in my life had that effect on anyone, can’t imagine why not. (Sidney to Sophie)

I can't say it enough. I loved, loved, loved this book. Now leave your computer and go get a copy!

Happy Reading!

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