Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Book Review

Are you ready for another book review already? I hope so, because I just cannot wait to write my review. Don't be alarmed, but it will be full of gushy praise.

I've had The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows on my wish list since I read the early reviews a few years ago. It sounded wonderful. The other day in my fit of passion, I ordered a copy. It arrived and then had to sit on my to-read shelf directly in my line of view while I sat on my bed reading a few lackluster novels. I was antsy. I had a hard time concentrating on the other books when I knew that it was just sitting there, waiting for me. (Yes, I'm obsessed. I admit it.)

On Friday I finally finished Enna Burning for my book club and I allowed myself to ignore the five other books that are waiting to be read and reviewed and begin The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (aren't you immediately intrigued by the long title?). Fortunately, Utah Dad is currently smack dab in the middle of a fabulous book (Volume 2 of The Children of Promise Series by Dean Hughes) and didn't bother me with suggestions to watch a movie instead of reading this weekend. Both of us debated staying up all night to read (our fatigue ultimately won out) and jokingly wondered if it could possibly be appropriate to take our books to nursery this morning. Fortunately, we chose to leave our books at home and didn't neglect the nursery babies. I finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society just a bit ago. Utah Dad is still on the couch reading with just a few more pages to go.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a uniquely written novel. It is written as a series of letters to and from Juliet Ashton, the witty writer of a published collection of anecdotes of her experiences in London during World War II. The war is recently over and Juliet is trying to rebuild her life and looking for a new subject to write about. She receives a letter from Dawsey, a pig farmer on the island of Guernsey. He has obtained a book that once belonged to her and is curious about obtaining more books by the same author. The island state of Guernsey was occupied by the Germans for the length of the war. The people of Guernsey have been cut off from news, nearly starved to death and in a spontaneous moment formed the literary society as a ruse to allow themselves to gather regularly without trouble from the Germans. What began as a ruse becomes a real love of literature for many of the members. In her correspondence with the members of the society, Juliet makes new friends and discovers a deeply moving story about mankind's desire to not only survive but to thrive even in perilous times.

I was amazed that through letters the story could be told so thoroughly emotionally and that the characters could be so deeply developed. In the late 1940's, letter writing was really the only way to communicate with people at great distances (phones being not nearly so reliable and convenient--especially right after war). Juliet's wit, thoughtfulness and her insecurities come out in her letters to her friends. This style was really rather ingenious and I ended up liking it a great deal. It was much more personal. It was as if I had just discovered a packet of letters carefully saved and wrapped in a ribbon in my grandmother's trunk.

The story reads so smoothly. There is not a single flaw in the writing or the story. I now want to move to Guernsey and live in a little cottage by the ocean and let my kids run bare foot across the fields and milk cows and feed little piglets (Lilly would love that). I wonder if they have good Internet on the island. Anyone want to buy my house?

P.S. Utah Dad just finished his book. At least he has Volume Three. What in the world should I read now?


Katie Stoddart said...

I love that book! My m-i-l had it and told me to read it. Def worth reading!

Rheanna said...

I read this a couple years ago and absolutely loved it!

Candleman said...

So glad you read one of my all time favorite books! Your review was fantastic! I hope you move to Guernsey so I'll have a place to stay when I come visit. (JK)

I'll bet you'd love The Breaking of Eggs.

Ammon and Jen said...

Thanks for the review. This has been on my mental "to-read" list and now it will go on my amazon list. Has it really been two years for the book club? Keep me posted on what the next book is. I still want to be part of it--even long distance. I'm glad you liked Enna Burning. I think all of Shannon Hale's books are delightful.

Momnerd said...

I LOVED this book! I'm glad you got to read it. :) Have you read These is my words? Another good one!

Heidi B C said...

A must read for sure! I loved it! We read it for book club a few months ago. Another good read if you haven't read it : The Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Absolutely wonderful!

Utah Mom said...

Thanks for the book recommendations. I have read "These is My Words" and "The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" is already on my wish list (now it's on the top). I've added "The Breaking of Eggs" to my wish list too.