Tuesday, April 28, 2009

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

No beating around the bush with this review -- I absolutely loved this book. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which I'll abbreviate as Guernsey for the remainder of the review since that title is a mouthful) appears to be a light read at first glance, comprised of letters written by London-based writer Juliet Ashton, her publisher, and the various members of a literary society based in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands near England. But it is a very deep book that touches upon the horrors of war and the struggles people face when choosing to stand up for what is right despite the threat of death.

The year is 1946. Juliet is known for a column she wrote during World War II to lighten people's moods, which is funny since she's a bit moody (don't ask her about her almost marriage to a soldier who died in the war). She receives a letter from a Mr. Dawsey Adams wondering if she could direct him to a store where he could purchase books by and about Charles Lamb. He contacted Juliet because her name and address were written in the Lamb book he carries with him and has grown to love. Dawsey lives on Guernsey, an island occupied by the Nazis during the war. When Juliet learns through his letter that a roast pig led to the creation of a literary society to avoid punishment by the Nazis for breaking curfew, Juliet gets an idea for a story and begins a correspondence with Dawsey and other members of the literary society.

In Guernsey, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows created many lovable characters. I immediately liked Juliet, and fell in love with the literary society members right along with her. The letters were beautifully written, and they flowed seamlessly from one to another. Each letter was written in the distinctive voice of a single character, yet put together, they created a rich picture of loss, survival, and joy experienced by the people of Guernsey under Nazi rule.

When Juliet travels to Guernsey and meets the people with whom she has been corresponding, she plans to get enough information to write a book. Her experiences on the island transform her, and her presence changes the people of Guernsey as well. I don't want to go into the plot more than that because this is a gem of a story with many layers that you should peel back for yourself. Guernsey has received rave reviews from many bloggers, and it exceeded my high expectations. If you still haven't read it yet, get your hands on a copy right away. You're in for a real treat.

******

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is the 8th book I've read for the WWII reading challenge that Serena and I are co-hosting at War Through the Generations.

Disclosure:  I purchased my copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.


28 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book too. I just hated for it to end.

Brittanie said...

I loved this book. I read it last year and I loaned it out. I am ready for it to come back so I can reread it! :)

wordlily said...

I, too, loved this book. Now I just need to read 84, Charing Cross Road, which 80 percent of reviews compared Guernsey to.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I listened to this on audio, and is without a doubt one of my top reads for the year. I wanted to move to Guernsey!

S. Krishna said...

I really need to read this one, argh! Great review.

Staci said...

This book was absolutely charming and I'm so glad you loved it too. What a great review Anna!!

Darla D said...

I just picked up the audio version of this because of rave reviews from coworkers and library patrons. Now I'm looking forward to listening to it even more!

Nise' said...

I am going to read this for the WWII challenge as well, glad to be reading such good things about it.

Mary said...

I read it last year and it made my top 5 of the year. It's on the keeper shelf. Nice review!

Toni said...

I have this one in the pile. It is intriguing. It sounds original. Thanks for the review. I have heard mostly good of this one...curious about Juliet after reading another review tonight. :)

Blodeuedd said...

Good to hear you loved it :D I only just came across it for the first time and really want to read it

Annell said...

This has quickly become one of my favorite books. I've actually read it two times within the past year...I think it's about time for another read!

Jeanette said...

Loved this book. Annie Barrows is coming to a book signing in my neck of the woods next month and I am really excited to go.

Serena said...

I have not read this book, but I know where I can get my hands on a copy...lol at least temporarily.

Thanks for the review.

Alyce said...

I'm glad to see that you liked this one. I thought it was great too!

J.S. Peyton said...

I just bought this book a couple of weeks ago! Now I just need to make time to read it! Glad you liked it!

Wrighty said...

I LOVED this book! I read it last year for an online club at B&N and the author joined us for a month. She was wonderful! Actually, her aunt wrote the book and then became very ill and asked her niece to finish the editing process. Her aunt passed away shortly after so she didn't get to see what a huge success the book had become. She shared so many interesting things. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it too.

I also have an award for you HERE.

Ladytink_534 said...

I'm pretty sure I'd like this one but I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet. Glad you liked it so much though!

Laura said...

I'm glad to hear this exceeded your high expectations! I really really want to read this one!

Nicole said...

This sounds like a good one. What an interesting way to write a novel, with letters from different people. It must be hard for an author(s) to make each person sound unique.

Scattie said...

I am listening this at the moment and it is brilliant, I am listening to one cd a day so it takes longer to get to the end!

Nymeth said...

wow, exceed your expectations! It's so great when that happens. I'm really looking forward to reading this. I bet I'll fall in love with it too.

Janel said...

This has been on my wish list for a long time. Glad to see you liked it so much!

Gwendolyn B. said...

I loved this book! Despite the Nazi's, it was a really pleasant read.

Corinne said...

I'm reading it for book club next month!! Wahoo! Finally - I keep hearing that everyone loves it :)

Anna said...

Bermudaonion: I know, I really wanted to find out what happened to the characters after.

Brittanie: I'd be hesitant to lend this one. I'd be sad if it never came back!

wordlily: I've heard that, and I want to read that one, too.

Sandy: Me, too!

S. Krishna: Thanks! I hope you get a chance to read it soon.

Staci: Thanks! "Charming" is a great word for this book.

Darla: I'm looking forward to your thoughts. I hope you like it!

Nise': It's definitely a great challenge book!

Mary: It's among my all-time faves. Glad to hear you really enjoyed it as well.

Toni: I can't wait til you read it. I'm looking forward to your thoughts.

Blodeuedd: I do hope you read it. Let me know what you think if you do.

Annell: I can see myself re-reading it at some point, too.

Jeanette: She'll be in D.C. in June and I hope I get to go.

Serena: Of course you can borrow my copy...as long as you give it back. LOL

Alyce: I've seen lots of favorable reviews for this one. It's definitely deserving.

J.S. Peyton: Hope you get a chance to read it soon. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wrighty: Thanks! I was wondering about Barrows' aunt. Thanks for letting me know the story.

Ladytink: I bet you'd like it. Hope you get a chance to read it.

Laura: I hope you get your hands on a copy soon. It's worth it.

Nicole: I agree. And the best part with this one is that after a while, you forgot you were reading letters. It felt like a regular story.

Scattie: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Nymeth: I hope you read it and love it, too.

Janel: I hope you get a chance to read it soon. I'd love to know your thoughts.

Gwendolyn: I agree!

Corinne: I can't wait to hear your thoughts! Happy reading!

tanabata said...

I so want to read this! Now that it's out in paperback, I'm planning to get it the next time I order books. I've heard nothing but rave reviews!

Anna said...

Tanabata: I think you'd enjoy it. Let me know what you think when you get a chance to read it.