The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy reading a book entirely composed of a series of letters, but the description on the dust-jacket helped me decide to give it a try anyway. It’s 1946 and Europe is just starting to recuperate from the war and the German occupation. Juliet Ashton, the principal character, is a successful writer looking for a topic for her next book—as we learn from her intimate correspondence with her publisher and friend. She receives a letter one day from Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey, a Channel Island which was occupied by the Nazis. Having come into possession of one of her old Charles Lamb books and thoroughly enjoyed it, Dawsey asks her to help him find more of his books, and mentions in passing that he is part of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet is of course intrigued, and thus begins their correspondence, which eventually grows to include more and more members of the Literary Society. The letters reveal a gallery of highly colourful characters (as well as their individual reading choices) and by the second part of the book, Juliet has made the trip to Guernsey to meet her correspondents and admirers in the flesh. She is still searching for the right topic to write about in her upcoming book and hopes the trip will provide inspiration, but as you read the book, you know she’ll find that and much more. I found Juliet to be a very appealing character, someone I myself wouldn’t mind corresponding with (if she weren’t fictional of course!) Although there are reminders of the war and it’s atrocities everywhere, the tone of the book is very upbeat. Indeed, I would describe this as a “feel-good” book, with characters determined to make the best out of the direst of circumstances. What keeps it from being too syrupy-sweet are the constant reminders of the war, and the fact that the characters are entirely believable, each as flawed as they are likeable. Juliet’s voluminous correspondence describes a woman filled with spunk and humour, and a wonderful independent spirit. I raced through it and was only disappointed that I couldn’t read it all in one sitting when the need for sleep became too pressing. But this is one of the very rare books I would like to keep by my side so I can read it over again a few more times. I gave it four and a half stars, so it’s safe to say I enjoyed it.
Mum: if you’d like to read it, I’ll gladly get you another copy.