Expressive, magical, and utterly remarkable, this epistolary narrative charms, penetrates, and has irresistible perspective

  • Book: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • Location: Guernsey
  • Author: Mary Ann Shaffer

Location

Content

If this review and the promise of exquisite scenery, intelligent conversation, wry flirtations, and heartening nostalgia found within the pages of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society won’t convince you to give the book a try, I don’t know what will.

Told completely in descriptive letters, amusing telegrams, and exclusive marginal notes, this modern British classic details the lives and events of post-World War II civilians, particularly in bomb-raided London and the recently liberated Channel Islands. The backdrop is extraordinarily well set, with eye-opening and little-known flashes of war terror mingled with depressing, but rich details of Guernsey’s isolation under the prolonged German occupation during the war (which lasted until 1945). Both the tempestuous German reign and the brief evocations of the Belsen concentration camps are horrific, but they contrast magnificently with the gorgeous portraits of post-war Guernsey.

Dawsey Adams finds the name and address of budding war commentator and novelist, Juliet Ashton, in a book he’s acquired secondhand, and seeing that the particular title-a Charles Lamb classic-is well worn, he decides to write her expressing his admiration for the author and complimenting her taste. He doesn’t expect Juliet to respond-she doesn’t know who he is, after all-but with her spirit and partiality towards literature, she does-enthusiastically. And thus they embark on an exciting, sparkling correspondence.

Shaffer has breathed life into her delightful, vivid cast of characters. Dawsey, Sidney, Isola, Susan, the late Elizabeth, and young Kit-I fell in love with all of them! They’re simply enchanting… such a diverse, memorable group. I want to see more like them in fiction, and frankly, more like them in real life!

Juliet is so my favorite. Rebellious, lovable, and charismatic, she marches to her own drum and has a satirical approach to everything. She’s the perfect blend of compassion, angst, and irony, and I absolutely loved her as well. She may, from the viewpoints of her elders, have misplaced priorities and be rather reckless with her actions, but she is fiercely stubborn-fiercely passionate-and that’s what makes her such a sensational person.

When introduced to a magical literary community, Juliet is able to free her inhibitions and revel in what she knows best and devotes to the most: books. She brings out the book lover in all of us, and her engagement with the Society poignantly demonstrates the marvelous escapism of books. Guided by the wisdom of literary heros like Austen and Lamb, her and the other members’ lives, once crossed, will be changed forever. This book is perfect for those who love and are awed by the power of the written word-the power it has to bring people together.

I pathetically clung on to every word stylistically and structurally, not one sentence is out of place. With smooth narration and keen insight, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful escape with luscious facets of history and immaculate observations that will immerses readers completely. A modern adaptation of a time-revered romance, it has the witticisms and hopeful predictability that is universally reminiscent in any era and any upbringing.

Here is a book to read again and again, and to cherish for a long time to come. It isn’t just about the wonder of reading and friendship it’s about finding light in wartime, finding peace in destruction. It’s about true love-true identity-and it delivers a quintessential message about humanity that we all ought to keep in mind: that in love, sometimes pride is a far, far bigger crime than prejudice.

Pros: Highly evocative in setting // Bright, endearing characters that I want to take home with me // Beautifully written, from multiple vibrant perspectives // Quaint British tone-my favorite! // Humorous // Memorable // Starry and stunningly romantic // Will appeal even to those who don’t like historical novels buoyant and chronicled, rather than dense and dull // Shrewd in emotional bearing // Heart-warming a 100% feel-good read

Cons: The first few pages are a bit difficult to follow because you don’t know who’s who, but gradual character descriptions clear this up immediately // It ended!!!!

Love: “We clung to books and to our friends they reminded us that we had another part to us.”

Verdict: The miraculous effect of arts and culture, and the appreciation of literature and storytelling-and they way they both shape us humans-is luminously presented in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Expressive, magical, and utterly remarkable, this epistolary narrative is, in one breath, charming with sharp penetration and irresistible perspective. In between the suppression of grief-struck war memories and slow recuperation, is a beautifully refreshing, dazzling, and hopeful reminder that in stories-on paper and in pen-people live and love on. In Juliet’s own words: “The war is now the story of our lives, and there’s no denying it.” So too with this novel.

Rating: 10 out of 10 hearts: I’m speechless this book is an extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous masterpiece.

Source: Complimentary copy provided by TripFiction in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!).

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition! Entries close 6th November

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media