I almost bought The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society several times last year. I’m not entirely sure what stopped me, but it probably had something to do with being a little skeptical on how much I would like a book written entirely in letters. However, the book did have a lot going for it – it was extremely well reviewed and had a plot that centered around books, reading, and a book club/society. What more could I ask for?
Lucky for me, my dear friend Emma bought me a copy for Christmas. It was pretty comical how many times this book had been in and out of my hands before I ended up owning it. In fact, when I opened the present, I actually had a copy checked out from the library, but knew I would have to return it because I wouldn’t get a chance to read it before it was due.
Enough backstory – on to the book. :)
This book is so delightful. It did not take long at all to get into the flow of reading the novel in the form of letters. It’s unique in that in manages to deal with somber subject matters (WWII, German Occupation, Concentration Camps) in a way that is not overly depressing. Instead, it lets you get to know the people of Guernsey, and hear their stories of daily life and survival on the island during the war.
Of course, this is a fictional account, but it has a basis in fact – the Channel Islands were occupied during WWII and many of the islanders had to make the difficult choice of sending their children to live in England just before the invasion occurred, to try to spare their lives and suffering during the war.
It’s such a pleasant journey to go on with our main “narrator” – Juliet Ashton – who connects to the island residents through very serendipitous travels of a used copy of Charles Lamb’s Essays of Elia. (The novel’s references to Charles Lamb are another very charming aspect; I love Charles Lamb.)
The title of the book comes from the “book club” that the islanders formed during the war. It’s a lot of fun to read about their Literary Society, and makes me wish I had something similar myself. I always thought that would be the best kind of book group for me to join – not one where every member has to read the same thing for every meeting, but where members read what they’d like and then take turns telling each other about it. Anyone who’s read it can chime in, those who haven’t may discover many new things to add to their to be read lists.
I read this book all in one day on Saturday, and it was the perfect escape from wisdom tooth pain. I recommend it – it’s a great story, and book lovers will especially appreciate the literary references and reading about a wonderful book group.
The book has an official website – http://www.guernseyliterary.com/ – where you can find reviews, audio samples, reader’s guides, more information about the island of Guernsey, and a recipe for potato peel pie.
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