The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
In this novel, Shaffer and Barrows tell a story of chance encounters and destiny through letters mailed mainly between Juliet Ashton, a British author, and several citizens of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. Relationships that begin as a fluke when Dawsey Adams finds Juliet’s contact information in a book by Charles Lamb grow to change the lives of not only Juliet, but many of the islands residents as well. You never know what life has planned for you, but if you are open to any and all possibilities, it often leads to a deeper happiness than you ever imagined.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is another audio book that worked well for me. After I got used to the different voices, I loved hearing the characters read their own letters. As with The Sister, the readers were cast well. I enjoyed the story of Juliet and her friends on Guernsey. I distinctly remember thinking about how unusual and silly I found the title of this novel, but the story of its origins was delightful. It is a sign of how imaginative and ingenious human beings can be when their freedom is taken from them by force. I also found it very satisfying how freely people let others in to their lives when one only shows genuine interest in them. First, Juliet let Dawsey in when he wrote about Charles Lamb Then Dawsey, and eventually many others in the Society, embraced her in return when she asked questions about the sad and painful events that took place during the Nazi occupation. Little did they know how much they would all end up meaning to each other.
I could imagine joy of receiving and reading such interesting letters. In fact, that is what I took away the most from this novel – how letter writing has all but fallen by the wayside in this day and age of email, texting, Facebook, and Twitter. Certainly we know more faster this way, but it is far from as personal or as detailed. We’ve come to the point where we economize our communication to such a degree that we can’t bare to write complete sentences or even complete words. When I transferred to another university after my sophomore year of college, one of my best friends, whom I would be leaving behind, said that she was happy about one thing – she would start getting some of my wonderful letters. I loved to write letters then. I usually wrote three or four a week. Often I would read exerpts to Mary. I had no idea how much this could mean to another person. A good letter can not only inform the reader, but it carries a bit of your personality along with it. I’ll never forget that she said that. It’s been almost a year now since I wrote my last letter. Before then, I can’t recall. Reading this novel reminded me of what a lost artform letter writing is. There is nothing like it.
I enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for its love of letter writing and for providing a feel for what it would have been like to live under Nazi occupation during World War II. I enjoyed the characters of Guernsey and how Juliet interacted with them. However, the first two thirds were much better for me then the last. Because Juliet traveled to Guernsey, the islanders got lost in Juliet’s letters. There was less and less back and forth communication at that point. She would write to Sydney and Sophia, but rarely would she get a reply. Once the love triangle entered the picture, I was certain of the outcome. It was as predictable as I had expected. As a whole, I found this novel interesting. It was a good counterpart to War on the Margins, which is set on Jersey island. If you enjoy reading a good letter, discovering a place you’ve never been, and don’t mind knowing the end before you get to it, this is a wonderful choice. After all, sometimes it’s nice to sit down in the quiet and re-read an old letter. Knowing all the details doesn’t prevent you from once again feeling welcome and special.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the first novel I read for 2009’s War Through the Generations Reading Challenge.