Juliet Ashton is on a promotional tour for her recently published book. Life in 1946 London has its challenges but thirty-something Juliet is a buoyant young woman. She receives a letter from a Guernseyman named Dawsey Adams who is in possession of a book of essays by Charles Lamb that had belonged to Juliet; he wants her help in obtaining a biography of Lamb. Their correspondence blossoms and she grows fascinated with the story of Dawsey and his friends, their island's occupation by German troops during the war, and the group they call The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Eventually Juliet travels to Guernsey to dig deeper into the islanders' stories, intending to write a magazine article -- which expands in her mind to a book, if she can find the center around which to write it. She finds that center in Elizabeth McKenna, accidental founder of the Society, now gone to a wartime prison for harboring a runaway "slave."
Authors Shaffer and Barrows tell the story entirely in letters written by Juliet, her publisher and friend Sydney, her old school friend in Scotland, the people of the island, and assorted other characters. The action is well-choreographed and the book is full of humor and pathos. Everyone wants to tell Juliet stories of the long, hard occupation, the pain of the children being evacuated, and the entirely human need to brighten the dreary days with novelty -- the Society of the book's title.
Books in letter format have the disadvantage of holding the reader slightly at arms' length from the characters; we only learn what they tell us. These characters are loquacious and open, which is a good thing, but the constant switching from one voice to another takes its slight toll. The plot is well laid out though the development of the more complex themes suffers from constant shifting first person; perhaps a half star off for that, rounding to five which feels right because of the enjoyment it brought me. I listened to the unabridged audio download from Audible, read by a cast of five; this was very well done and made the characters come to life very quickly. Recommended for your light read of the year.
I had heard people talking about this book ever since it was published--countless people I know had read it and loved it--so I bought it; but then I found myself passing it by on my TBR (to be read) shelf time and time again because I wasn't sure it was my cup of tea (as it turns out, I misunderstood what the book was about from the descriptions I was given). Then I met a new friend and neighbor and she kept at me about it, saying I must read it. FINALLY, after close to two years gathering dust … more
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer is a charming epistolary novel (for those of you who forgot your high school English terms, that means that the book is a series of letters) but perhaps too charming. In the novel, a young, unmarried British writer named Juliet has found success with a series of newspaper columns during WWII. Now (in 1946) the columns are compiled as a book and she's even more successful. As she searches for a new topic to tackle, … more
Okay, that’s definitely a long title. It’s also a perfect title for a perfectly entertaining, intriguing and informative love story, world war II drama, and mystery with a twist. The twist is that the story’s told entirely in letters between the characters. The wonder is it works so perfectly. A writer looking for a book idea after wartime success finds herself accidentally corresponding with people who’ve lived through the German occupation … more
When my mother recommended this book to me, I took a look at the cover quotes and found myself immediately skeptical. Phrases like "New York Times Bestseller" and a recommendation from the author of "Eat Pray Love" don't always lend themselves as a marker of a mindful read. However, after giving it a chance I was pleasantly surprised. This novel explores the experiences of a collection of characters in both Guernsey and England and their coping mechanisms … more
I admit; this was a hard book to get into. It is written in a series of letters between the main character (Juliette, if I remember right), and her publisher Sydney, plus many others, most of whom are members of a literary society that was formed by an unlikely group of people thrown together by events during WWII, on the Channel Island of Guernsey. This book has it all: romance, suspense, humor, horror. Once I got used to the manner of writing, I loved reading how each character … more
Poverty and suffering are AWESOME, apparently. I threw the book into the wall when the author used the word "random" to mean "unexpected," in her faux-period letters, a meaning that emerged in the computer age. I give this book a big fat *fart sound*.
Pros: Literary; entertaining; excellent character development; not formulaic; exquisite audio rendition. Cons: Irreverent and immoral in places; unrealistic ending; pacing concerns; similar styles among characters. The Bottom Line: Reading this book will help you discuss both tragedy and whimsy using a British accent--unless you already have one. In that case, this work may prove disappointingly inaccurate. Dear Readers, … more
The year is 1946, and British writer Juliet is feeling restless. She wants to write something new but doesn't know what. As luck would have it, she receives a letter from a Guernsey man and a pen-friendship develops. He tells her about the island literary society and its unusual history, and before she knows it she is corresponding with all the members and planning to visit them in person. Written entirely as a series of letters between Juliet and her friends, this book … more