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

This book sat on my TBR shelf for ages.  I was afraid of the hokey, contrived, cutesy nature of this story that always struck me as very ANTI-BROOKE – yes, the caps lock was necessary.  But something happened during my reading of Arcadia that had me dying for something lighthearted and escapist so I picked Guernsey up and pretty much didn’t put it down again until finished.  I loved this book – warts and all.

Shamelessly stealing the synopsis from Goodreads.com:

“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Is this novel sickeningly sweet?  Yes ma’am.  Is the story original or thought provoking?  Not at all.  Did I still drink it in as fast as sweet tea on a hot July afternoon?  You betcha.  Maybe some part of me just needed this book and it came to me at the right time.  Or maybe I’m just pmsing?  Who knows, but I wholeheartedly recommend this story whenever you are feeling down or need some brain candy to get you through stressful times or just life in general.

Normally, epistolary novels annoy the crap out of me, but this one was charming.  The eccentric characters are like warm, welcoming old friends inviting you into their quaint homes for a cup of tea and great conversation.  I totally understood why Juliet would want to escape the post-war London for this little island so often forgotten by the rest of the world.  I mean, how many of y’all have ever even heard of the Channel Islands?  I only discovered them myself a couple of years ago.  And to learn of their complicated, sad, and brave history during the German occupation added some weight to the rather breathy romantic nature of the book’s main plot.

What really won me over was how much this novel acts as a love story to books and reading.  It’s not hard to understand how a book club could lift people up and create a sense of family and community during the brutality of WWII.  The simple things in life can often save us from the harshest trials that we face which Guernsey so lovingly displays.

Some critics of the novel really hated Juliet as the narrative voice, but I kind of loved her.  Despite what some might suggest, I didn’t find her too perfect at all.  She’s shown to have a quick temper, susceptible to the wily charms of too-slick men, and to have the emotional baggage and drama of any normal person.  All of these faults come together to paint the picture of a complete person which I appreciated.  I’m not sure I entirely bought her as an overnight mother figure, but her rather quick transformation didn’t annoy me either.

Of course, more than anything, Guernsey is a rather contrived romantic comedy.  We all know who she’ll end up with far before she does and the ending is the fairy tale happily ever after.  I am glad pig farmers are finally getting their due in popular literature!  And for the first time, this obvious gushy romance didn’t bother my reading – in fact, I kept seeing it in film form and wishing someone would make it into a movie.  Are they?  It reminds me of something like Love Actually which is an amazing movie – don’t judge me!

So, I know this was rather gushing and lacked any real solid concrete evidence to back up my giddy book love, but I still highly recommend to those of you that haven’t managed to find your way to Guernsey.  Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination – nor great literature – but just so much fun and something that will make you smile even when you don’t remember how.

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20 thoughts on “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

  1. I keep hearing how perfect this book is, yet I keep resisting. You might have just pushed me over the edge and got me to read it, you sneaky thing you! I am going to be looking for this one over the weekend.

    • Thanks! I do think I’d have thrown the book against a wall if I had read it during a cynical period, but waiting for some much needed cozy-times was perfect!

  2. I loved all of the characters and felt that I was able to “know” them better through all of the letters. This is a perfect book to curl up with on a lazy afternoon with a nice cup of tea.

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