Sunday, March 3, 2013

10 Heart Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

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

Page Count: 240 (Bloomsbury British 2nd edition)

Release Date: 29 July 2008 (1st edition)
Publisher: Dial Press (Random House)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by TripFiction in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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 can't think what to write next. 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, by chance, come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb...

When Juliet's new correspondent reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Juliet's curiosity is piqued and it's not long before she begins to hear from other members.

As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.

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.

Review


If this review and the promise of exquisite scenery, intelligent conversation, wry flirtations, and heartening nostalgia found within the pages of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society won't convince you to give the book a try, I don't know what will.

Told completely in descriptive letters, amusing telegrams, and exclusive marginal notes, this modern British classic details the lives and events of post-World War II civilians, particularly in bomb-raided London and the recently liberated Channel Islands. The backdrop is extraordinarily well set, with eye-opening and little-known flashes of war terror mingled with depressing, but rich details of Guernsey's isolation under the prolonged German occupation during the war (which lasted until 1945). Both the tempestuous German reign and the brief evocations of the Belsen concentration camps are horrific, but they contrast magnificently with the gorgeous portraits of post-war Guernsey.

Dawsey Adams finds the name and address of budding war commentator and novelist, Juliet Ashton, in a book he's acquired secondhand, and seeing that the particular title—a Charles Lamb classic—is well worn, he decides to write her expressing his admiration for the author and complimenting her taste. He doesn't expect Juliet to respond—she doesn't know who he is, after all—but with her spirit and partiality towards literature, she does—enthusiastically. And thus they embark on an exciting, sparkling correspondence.

Shaffer has breathed life into her delightful, vivid cast of characters. Dawsey, Sidney, Isola, Susan, the late Elizabeth, and young Kit—I fell in love with all of them! They're simply enchanting... such a diverse, memorable group. I want to see more like them in fiction, and frankly, more like them in real life!

Juliet is so my favorite. Rebellious, lovable, and charismatic, she marches to her own drum and has a satirical approach to everything. She's the perfect blend of compassion, angst, and irony, and I absolutely loved her as well. She may, from the viewpoints of her elders, have misplaced priorities and be rather reckless with her actions, but she is fiercely stubborn—fiercely passionate—and that's what makes her such a sensational person.

When introduced to a magical literary community, Juliet is able to free her inhibitions and revel in what she knows best and devotes to the most: books. She brings out the book lover in all of us, and her engagement with the Society poignantly demonstrates the marvelous escapism of books. Guided by the wisdom of literary heros like Austen and Lamb, her and the other members' lives, once crossed, will be changed forever. This book is perfect for those who love and are awed by the power of the written word—the power it has to bring people together.

I desperately clung on to every word; stylistically and structurally, not one sentence is out of place. With smooth narration and keen insight, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful escape with luscious facets of history and immaculate observations that will immerses readers completely. A modern adaptation of a time-revered romance, it has the witticisms and hopeful predictability that is universally reminiscent in any era and any upbringing.

Here is a book to read again and again, and to cherish for a long time to come. It isn't just about the wonder of reading and friendship; it's about finding light in wartime, finding peace in destruction. It's about true love—true identity—and it delivers a quintessential message about humanity that we all ought to keep in mind: that in love, sometimes pride is a far, far bigger crime than prejudice.

Pros


Highly evocative in setting // Bright, endearing characters that I want to take home with me // Beautifully written, from multiple vibrant perspectives // Quaint British tone—my favorite! // Humorous // Memorable // Starry and stunningly romantic // Will appeal even to those who don't like historical novels; buoyant and chronicled, rather than dense and dull // Shrewd in emotional bearing // Heart-warming; a 100% feel-good read

Cons


The first few pages are a bit difficult to follow because you don't know who's who, but gradual character descriptions clear this up immediately // It ended!!!!

Love

We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.

Verdict


The miraculous effect of arts and culture, and the appreciation of literature and storytelling—and they way they both shape us humans—is luminously presented in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  Expressive, magical, and utterly remarkable, this epistolary narrative is, in one breath, charming with sharp penetration and irresistible perspective. In between the suppression of grief-struck war memories and slow recuperation, is a beautifully refreshing, dazzling, and hopeful reminder that in stories—on paper and in pen—people live and love on. In Juliet's own words:
The war is now the story of our lives, and there's no denying it.
So too with this novel Americanflag

10 hearts: I'm speechless; this book is an extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous masterpiece (x)