Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"

  “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’d never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He’d come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.
  “As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the-moment way: as an alibi to keep its members from arrest by the Germans.
  “Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society’s charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever.”

 Stepping inside the world of this epistolary novel was like returning to visit dear friends. Book lovers abound and the love of literature pours out of this book like a balm. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was charming and delightful, although still retaining those sobering moments that make me adore books like this. The characters are drawn so well that you forget that they’re characters in a book and half expect to find out they really did exist as real, living and breathing people living on Guernsey Island and in-and-about London.

 The book also shines a light on a fact of World War II that I was previously unaware of: the occupation of the English Channel Islands by the Nazis. It was fascinating to discover this bit of history I had missed, and it has intrigued me into trying to find more information on the events.

 But however much this book charmed me, there were still a few content issues that popped up but nothing overly problematic. There are a couple instances of language scattered throughout, and some thematic material that would make me recommend it for older readers. One character turns out to be a homosexual but it is not dwelt upon much. Another character has a child out of wedlock, something that is never reproved by anyone except by an all-around kill-joy whose, as another reviewer put it, “opinions are invalidated by having her rail at everything else of value.”

 In spite of those small issues, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful read sure to bring smiles to book aficionados and historical fiction lovers both.

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