The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

guernsey-literary-and-potato-peel-pie-societyFiction — print. Dial, 2008. 278 pgs. Library copy.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of those books that kind of took the book blogging community by storm — one review lead to half a dozen, which lead to two dozen. I was originally attracted to the book not because of its content, but because of its name — The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Admittedly a mouthful, and one I’m inclined to refer to as “that Literary and Potato Pie book,” it takes a unique book to carry such a unique title.

A charming book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society delves into life during and after World War II for the fictional book club of the same name, and the story is told through a series of letters between club members to/from Juliet, a writer who begins to write a book about the club, and Juliet to/from her editor/publisher. Juliet also writes several letters to Sophie, sister of her editor/publisher, Sidney, but Sophie never responds to her, something I found to be a bit odd, and made me feel like the story was missing something.

“Maybe that sounds dull, but the letters aren’t — they’re witty. I think you learn more if you’re laughing at the same time.” (pg. 89)

I wasn’t expecting the epistolary style, and was originally a bit put off by the format. However, as the story progressed, I began to enjoy it. That is, until more and more characters were added to the correspondence and it became increasingly obvious that all the characters sound the same. Sure, they all have their quirks, but without the “From John Booker to Juliet” headers above each letter, I would have been forced to flip to the end of the letter and see who had written the letter to keep things straight.

The language isn’t also true to the times, which made it all the more obvious that this wasn’t a true story, and the ending was the weakest part of the whole novel. I would have liked to actually read the final chapter of Juliet’s book. I do, however, believe that this is the good book for those who enjoy reading — not the book itself but because the book shows the joy that a good book can bring to someone. Several of the characters read only one book, but are so passionate about that particular book or that particular author, it’s hard not to nod your head with understanding.

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