The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer
How many ways can I say that I loved this book? It may well end up being my favorite read of the year. And why not? In many ways, this story is like a love letter to books and the joy of reading.
As you have, no doubt, read before, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel. It is told entirely through correspondence, and takes place in 1946, just as Europe is trying to heal in the wake of WWII. The ostensible protagonist of this novel is Juliet Ashton, a thirty-two-year-old writer from London--though it is really an ensemble piece filled to overflowing with heart-warming characters.
The story begins when Juliet receives a letter from a stranger, Dawsey Adams, who lives on Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands. He has come into possession of an old book of Juliet's--one that had her former address written inside the cover. Dawsey is interested in learning more about the author of the book, and he's come to Juliet for help.
A casual reference by Dawsey to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society eventually leads Juliet to explore the war-time experiences of the residents of Guernsey. The island was occupied by the Germans for five years, and Juliet believes this should be the subject of her next book. So begins a correspondence that grows to encompass dozens of characters who range geographically from London to Guernsey to Scotland, France, and Australia. In the course of her research, and getting to know the residents of Guernsey first on the page, and then in person, Juliet finds her life altered in ways she never could have imagined.
This novel, and these lovely characters, had me grinning from ear-to-ear for the entirely too short time it took me to read the book. I don't mean to imply that it's cute, or twee, or precious in any way. On the contrary, as with any story involving war, there is a measure of tragedy. But still, somehow, every time I even think about this story (which is quite a bit in the days since I read it) I find myself smiling. All I want to do is share it with all of my favorite people, so that they too can have the pleasure of reading it for the first time. What a pure delight!
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