The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society hands down is the best book I've read all year. It might go down in history as one of my favorite books of all time. In fact, I'm already planning a visit to the bookstore to buy a copy or two to give to friends/family as gifts. It was that good. Read it for yourself and see.
Guernsey is written entirely in letters and telegrams sent by the characters. It follows writer Juliet, struggling to find a topic for her next book in post-World War II England. By chance, she receives a letter in the mail from a Mr. Dawsey Adams. He lives on Guernsey, a Channel Island that was occupied by the Germans during the war (did you even know that Germany occupied part of England?! I'm a history buff, especially on WWII, and I didn't know this! Crazy..), and he's writing because her name is written inside a book he picked up on the island. Turns out, it used to belong to her and she gave it away. He inquires about the author (Charles Lamb) and soon a friendship begins. Through Dawsey, and soon, other Guernsey residents, Juliet discovers a fascinating new world in the Channel Islands. She is eager to learn about the islanders' life under Nazi occupation and also about the group that some of the islanders started-The Guernsey Litary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She forms friendships with many of them. This is a beautiful, funny, and sad story about a group of resilient and quirky Guernsey islanders and the woman who wants to know about them.
It's hard to sum up this book, because it's just so good. So just take my word for it that there's never a dull moment! In fact, there's quite a lot of drama!
I adored the format of this book. Reading personal letters between the characters gives us a glimpse into their relationships. I was worried that the story would be very choppy and abrupt, and it was the total opposite. I couldn't put the book down, while at the same time, I was taking my time reading it because I didn't want it to end too quickly.
The characters were all fabulous too, and the letters really help you to get to know them. I sincerely feel like I personally know them all! Juliet is I guess the main character, though she's really just the link to the other characters. We read mostly her letters. She is HILARIOUS! She is so snarky and witty, definitely someone I could see myself being friends with. Isola, one of the islanders, also had a wild personality and said some very funny things. Another very intriguing character was Elizabeth McKenna. I was always eager to learn more about this remarkably kind and quirky character, who went out of her way to be nice to her friends and would put you in your place if you deserved it. It's hard to pick favorites with this book. Dawsey I really loved, though I'm not used to the name and totally thought he was a woman at first!! (Sorry, Dawsey!) There are also some nasty characters that are so ridiculous in their ways you can't help but laugh at them.
I've said a lot about how hilarious this book is. It's true. In fact, I didn't even bring it to campus to read because it was so witty at times. I laughed out loud so much while reading this book, my family probably thought I'd snapped. It was refreshing to read a book with so much "snark" to it.
This book is much more than just a book of letters shared between friends. It's a story of courage and of deep love for your friends and your family. It's a book about the resilience of a group of people forced to live with the enemy. It's a book about love and a book about loss.
I LOVE this book. I can't say anymore about it because I don't want to give it away, and I desperately want to reread it, and laugh and cry, and get to know these beautiful people all over again!
And I'm sure you'll all love it because it's so bookish :) The characters all bond, after all, over books <3
And now for some memorable/favorite quotes! (P.S.-This book was so well-written that I stopped underlining quotes about halfway through. I figured my little sis would be annoyed when she starts reading it and every line of the book is underlined....)
-Page right after cover/10: Juliet, to Dawsey-"I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers."
How lovely is that line?!
-Page 85: Juliet to Sophie-"Your questions regarding that gentleman are very delicate, very subtle, very much like being smacked in the head with a mallet. Am I in love with him? What kind of a question is that? It's a tuba among the flutes, and I expect better of you. The first rule of snooping is to come at it sideways...."
-Page 87: Juliet to Dawsey, speaking of her 3-year-old nephew-"Now he talks to himself, which I find terribly endearing since I do, too."
To end this review,I'd just like to give a few words about Mary Ann Shaffer, who wrote the book and passed away in 2008. Her niece, Annie Barrows, finished it up for her and wrote a heartwarming afterword about her aunt. It was beautiful to read and made me appreciate this story even more.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society really is a unique masterpiece (I see I'm having trouble trying to be subtle about my adoration....). I highly recommend it, for the glimpse we get into post-WWII Europe, for the humor, for the relationships that are formed, and for the wonderful and "real" characters in it.
Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Date of Publication: 2009
Number of Pages: 274
Source: personal copy