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.
20 thoughts on “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows”
Wonderfully insightful review, Brooke! Brain candy, indeed, but sometimes candy is just what we need – and this is a sweet piece of it. 🙂
Thank you! I do love some brain candy every now and again!
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.
You must seek it out as soul food when you need a break from all the crazy life tends to send in spades!
Everyone needs sickening sweet every now and again! I have this book on my shelf too, I will take your advice and save it for when I need something sweet and escapist…
Definitely save it for the right time and you’ll think it’s the most precious story ever. Otherwise, you’ll read the whole time with a smirk…haha.
A *great* review — you articulated why I’ve avoided it and why I’m also drawn to it — sometimes I want a book that gives me the warm cozies!
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!
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.
I definitely agree that the letters let you ‘know’ the characters better and it was the cast of characters that I loved the most about Guernsey!
Charming is the perfect word to describe this book. I enjoyed it, too.
Oh yes – for me the first two words that come to mind are charming and cozy!
I felt the same way when I read the book … it was comfy and sweet but had a little bit of tartness to it to keep it from going over the top.
Absolutely – it really needed those ‘tart’ bits to keep things a bit more grounded.
Hi there, the November edition of Books You Loved is now live. Here is the link Books You Loved November Edition Please do pop by and link in a post about a book you loved. Maybe this one? Cheers
Great comparison to Love Actually! It’s that lighthearted, sweet, warm vibe. Loved this one for that reason!
Exactly! Now I wanna watch Love Actually!
Hi there, there is a collection of book links happening right now at Carole’s Chatter. This time we are collecting links to posts about your favourite historical fiction. Here is the link Your Favourite Historical Fiction Please do pop by and link in – maybe this one? Have a lovely day.
I think that this book is far beyond a guilty pleasure. Some of her seemingly simple sentences really say a lot. So enjoyable!
I’m glad you found so much to love!