Monday, November 10, 2008
Shaffer and Barrows' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ~ Reviewed
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Published by The Dial Press
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she'd never met, a native of Guernsey, the British Island once occupied by the Nazis. He'd come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the- moment from arrest by the Germans.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society's charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever.
One of the ladies in my book club gave me this book to read.
I'm so glad that she did. I haven't read a book quite like this one before. The story was put together with letters written by many different characters in the story. Once I got into the rhythm of this book I found it most amusing, very informative, funny and in some places quite fascinating.
I'm not a history buff and found the letters from this time period interesting and horrific at the same time. Because the letters were so personal, you could actually get the feel of what they went through back then in the concentration camps, as well as what everyone was doing outside the camps. I wanted to share a few funny comments from the book "Reading good books spoils you for enjoying the bad ones." and "Men are more interesting in books than in real life." This is just a peek into this amusing, informative story.
I thought it was quite clever the reason the literary guild first started meeting. They had curfews and very little entertainment. I don't think any of them expected this group to amount to much. But it became their haven of rest and the hope they needed to make it through a pretty bleak existence.
The main character of the book is Juliet Ashton, is a writer who wrote a weekly column for the "Spectator" during the war. Stephen and Stark Publishing published all her articles and called them "Izzy Bickerstaff Goes To War". It became an unexpected hit! Now Juliet was in search of her next book. It's interesting how the "The Guernsey Literary and Potato PeelPie Society" began and what they talked about at their meetings. The group consisted of men and women that attended their meetings and everyone talked about the different books they each had read that past month. You will be intrigued about the diversity of people that came to the meetings and the stories that they have to tell. I was really tickled by Juliet Ashton and her search for the topic of her next book and her editor/publisher Sidney. Sidney and Sophie are good friends that gently push Juliet to search her heart and go after her next story no matter where it took her. So Juliet follows her heart, and dug up as much research she could on this literary society. Again this book has things in it I just loved: books, book clubs and the people that are involved with them. I thought the authors, Mary Ann and Annie, did an amazing job of showing me some of the history during this time period - things that I wouldn't normally choose to read on my own. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be inspired by the unique ways this community comforted and encouraged one another during such difficult, almost impossible, times.
I want to leave you with one of the sayings from this book that really struck me - "That's what I love about reading: one thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will led you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment." Reader beware!! That is true with this book as well! There are so many things I want to know more about because I read this book, and you will too. It's a keeper!!
Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent - Book Club servant Leader
Recommended by a friend who reads as much as I do, I opened the pages of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society not sure if I would like it. I mean a book full of letters? What a delightful surprise I received.
Shaffer's tongue-in-cheek humor and engaging style had me enthralled from the first page. I felt as though I was reading over Julia's shoulder, falling in love with the residents of Guernsey, characters each and every one. How utterly disappointing they only live on the pages of this book.
Sadly, Mary Ann Shaffer's health declined rapidly and her niece, Annie Barrows, author of the children's series Ivy and Bean, completed the novel seamlessly for her aunt. Although Shaffer only wrote one novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is top notch and should be around delighting readers for years to come. Novel Reviews and I give it our highest recommendation. It's a 5-star, absolute must-read.
Reviewed by Ane Mulligan
By Ane Mulligan