The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback (May 5, 2009)
Paperback, 304 pages, $14.00
Read an excerpt here.
In January of 1946, as war-torn Europe begins the rebuilding process after World War II, author Juliet Ashton is struggling to find a subject for her next book. She never expects that the subject will find her, literally showing up in her mailbox in the form of a letter from a stranger.
Dawsey Adams, a resident of the Channel Island of Guernsey, finds Juliet's address inside a secondhand book by Charles Lamb. He writes to her to inquire if Lamb wrote any more books since there are no bookstores in Guernsey. In his letter, Dawsey mentions that he's a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, an organization which, thanks to one woman's quick thinking, saved several Guernsey residents from German arrest. Juliet writes back and wants to know more about this oddly named book club. Soon she is corresponding with several other Guernsey residents, all of whom are eager to share their experiences during the past five years of being cut off from the mainland by the Germans. Reading was an integral part of getting the small community through the years of German occupation. As Eben Ramsay writes, "We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us."
The story is told through a series of letters and the epistolary format works splendidly here. With each letter I read, I fell in love with Guernsey just as much as Juliet did. After reading two or three letters from a single character, I no longer needed to reference the italics above the letter that stated who was writing to whom. I could tell Dawsey's letters from Isola's and Isola's from Eben's just from their unique writing styles. I particularly enjoyed the banter between Juliet and her longtime friend and editor, Sidney.
I picked up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while I was in the midst of moving, and this delightful book helped defuse a lot of moving-related stress. I had short, infrequent opportunities to read and the epistolary format was perfect for that situation. I could read several letters at a time, set the book down, and continue my reading later without missing a beat.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has received a lot of praise, so much that I worried it might not be able to live up to my expectations. I'm pleased to report that it exceeded my (very high) expectations. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have created something truly special here, and the book deserves all the accolades it has been given. Smart, witty writing, a diverse cast of characters, and tales that range from heartwrenching to hilarious made this book into an instant favorite for me. My only complaint about the book is that it had to end.
Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours, I have FIVE copies of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to give away to my readers. US and Canadian residents only. Leave a comment on this entry for a chance to win. Please include with your e-mail address so I have a way to contact you if you win. I'll announce the winners a week from today.