Finished Reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Historical fiction
In the aftermath of WWII, a writer in London named Juliet receives a letter from a stranger living on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. This begins a correspondence that expands to other members of the islander’s literary society, as Juliet wants to hear more about their society. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was formed during the German occupation of the island, and became so much more.
The book started out a little slow, but when it took off, it really took off. It’s written entirely in epistolary style, with letters and telegrams between various characters telling the story. The characters are endearing, and as the trials they went through during the war are revealed, the lasting effects are shown alongside them. The emotions are real, and I found myself swept up in them.
Early in the book, I was mostly annoyed with Juliet and her tendency to complain. It was establishing her background and life, I know, but maybe specifically because of the book’s format, since we saw everything directly from her perspective, she just seemed whiny. Around the time she got the first letter from Dawsey on the island, her character deepened enough that I didn’t dislike her so much. And then her sincere interest in the literary society and what the people on the island went through endeared her to me a lot more.
The format of the book is done well–each letter has a header stating who it was written to and from, so before you even start reading the letter, you are fully aware of that. It helps a lot, as eventually there are quite a few characters to keep straight. Some become more familiar, and others fall away, but overall, I only had a little struggle sorting through them.
Unsurprisingly, the characters are what make this book so great. I loved the way that the heart of the literary society was never even physically present in the book, once characters came together in the physical space, yet she was still a big part of the story. On the other hand, Juliet has this suitor that is pretty terrible. I don’t get why she doesn’t see how incredibly misogynistic he is, even in that somewhat different time.
This book is split into 2 parts, and by the time I got to part 2, I was completely hooked. It’s a fairly short book, and I think the epistolary format makes it particularly easy to read, because there’s not a lot of description. I read the bulk of it in a day. This is one book I am definitely going to re-read in the future. I recommend it for all fans of historical fiction, but even others, especially those who like character-driven stories.
Find out more about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!