A couple of years ago, some friends and I started a book club. It began as the “Jane Austin Book Club” in which we planned to read all of Jane Austin’s works. I had seen the movie adaptations of her books, but had failed to ever actually read one of them. We started with Pride and Prejudice and then moved on to Sense and Sensibility. After two back to back Austin novels, we could take no more and decided to branch out. The cool thing about our book club is we take turns picking the books and we all have very different tastes. This makes for a very eclectic selection of books. Since I am now blogging, I’ve decided to add our book club to my blog.
Our latest selection was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. It was published in 2008 and is an epistolary novel (a novel written as a series of documents…letters in this case). The scene is set in 1946 as London is emerging from WWII. The main character is Juliet Ashton, a writer, whose claim to fame is a series of humorous articles she wrote for the newspaper to boost morale during the war. Her editor in turn, released the articles as a book. We meet Juliet as she is in the middle of a book tour and trying to figure out what her next book subject will be. She randomly receives a letter from Dawsey, a native of Guernsey whom she’s never met, explaining that a book she previously owned ended up in his hands during the war. He makes a brief mention of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and asks for the name of a bookshop in London where he may acquire more books. Juliet, being the kind soul she is, goes above and beyond and not only sends him the name of a bookshop, but sends him another book as well. This begins Juliet’s correspondence with a cast of eclectic and sometimes eccentric characters who will ultimately change Juliet’s life forever.
Let me start by saying, everyone in our club loved this book. We had been on a run of very heavy books and this was much lighter and more enjoyable. Now when I say light, I don’t mean the subject matter was cheapened or lessened in any way. It dealt with some very deep issues such as the German occupation of the island of Guernsey, concentration camps, mistreatment, post-traumatic stress , etc. What kept the subject matter light was the characters’ refusal to give up or turn to a defeatist attitude. They just took everything in stride and refused to wallow in their circumstances. You end up loving these characters by the end of the book. We all wanted to take a trip to Guernsey and meet these people by the time we were finished.
I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It is both informative and entertaining.
Next up: The Disenchanted Widow by Christina McKenna