The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By: Mary Anne Shaffer
Ah. World War II. For me, that entire part of history is like one of those fountains that people (like my dad) have in their front yards. The water and information just keeps flowing and flowing and flowing. Okay, let’s be honest, that was a terrible analogy. Starting over! For me, I’m always trying to learn new facts and tidbits about WWII, and even the stuff I know already just absolutely fascinates me. That’s why I was so upset when I found out that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer was centered as the dust from World War II was settling. If I had known, I wouldn’t have left this book sit in my TBR pile for so many years! When I settled into reading it, I knew this book and I were going to be good friends when everything was said and done. One thing I absolutely loved was that this book is just a series of letters. From this, we can see so many differing points of view and opinions. Let’s jump in, shall we?
We are introduced to Juliet Ashton, a published writer whose comedic column under a pseudonym about the war was turned into a beloved novel and granted her fame throughout the United Kingdom. She now needs a new idea, as pressure from her old friend publisher Stanley encourages (demands) that she start a new book under her old pseudonym. She’s unlucky in love as she left her previous beau at the alter a al Runaway Bride, and now she’s got a certain American Markham V. Reynolds occupying her time and wanting more commitment than she’s ready for. (Maybe girls aren’t the only ones who go crazy for accents?) Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a man named Dawsey from the formerly island of Guernsey (I know, I had to look it up too) who bought a Charles Lamb book that used to belong to her. She strikes up a correspondence with him, discovering that he is part of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (try saying THAT five times fast) and sends him more books. She discovers that the Germans occupied the island, to which Dawsey and some fellow islanders created a secret literary club to cover up some illegal activity regarding a roast pig. She wants to get more information, thinking this to be the story for her new column, so she reaches out to the fellow members who happily invite her into their world. What she finds is a heart wrenching story of heartache, friendship, and a little bit of potato peel pie.
I can’t sufficiently put into words how much I enjoyed this novel. Honestly, I think it’s one of the best that i have read in years. Definitely the best epistolary novel i’ve ever come across. every letter I read, I seemed to get closer and closer to the characters. Juliet could honestly be one of my best friends, her humor immediately matched my own especially with her added trait of being entirely too curious. I couldn’t put down this novel once I started, and once I finished I immediately wished for more. This story broke my heart and uplifted my spirit at the same time. I could not recommend this book any more, it’s honestly a must-read for me. I recently moved to Georgia from California, a place I had lived all my life. When I came back to visit for the first time, this wave of emotion and pure happiness washed over me as my plane touched down in LA. I got that same feeling when reading this novel. It’s like coming home.
Rating: 11 glasses of Isola’s tonic out of 11.
I have to say, the movie version of this book is delightful. I love Lily James, and Michael Huisman is definitely one of the best parts of the film. I definitely have a thing for Michaels (don’t tell my Mike I said that). The plot had a few changes, especially with how the society was extremely reserved towards Juliet instead of welcoming her with open arms. There were also a few characters I missed from the novel that were missing from the movie. I could see some things were changed/cut for time purposes, but overall the feeling I got from reading the book was present in the film. Definitely watch it after reading the novel!