January 1946: London is emerging form 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 protect its members from arrest by the Germans.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society’s charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologist, 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.
Synopsis from hardcover book, 277 pages, copyright 2008 and published by The Dial Press.
The title of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, although a mouthful, intrigued me and was a total surprise to me when I read it. A good surprise though!
It was a delightful post World War 2 novel, with lots of wit, charm and warmth. I was highly amused!
I listened to the audio book and read the book after as I wrote notes for the book club discussion questions. I have to say that the audio book was superbly done. I am a big fan of John Lee who read here, and has done some fantastic narrating in other great books (The Century Trilogy). Other great narrators included Paul Boemmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landon and Juliet Mills.
Here’s why I loved the book so much:
This is a unique story and the book written in a series of letters among the main characters to tell the story. The title of the book gives a hint of what the book will be about.
Set in post-World War 2, author Juliet Ashton is looking for some inspiration for her next book. She finds it when Guernsey resident Dawsey Adams starts corresponding with her. He’s the new owner of her old book which had her name on it.
Juliet soon discovers that Dawsey is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and finds out how it got its unique name. As she starts corresponding with its members, Juliet form friendships with them and goes to Guernsey get their stories for her new book.
I really enjoyed this epistolary genre. I loved reading the series letters that were corresponded between the characters to tell the story. I felt we got to know the characters better this way. It allowed me to look through many lenses rather than just the one and I felt closer to the characters this way.
For a small book of only 277 pages, it packs a lot of punch. The authors were able to capture the post war time era really well and structure of the book lends well to epistolary genre.
I enjoyed the tone and wit that the authors created in this novel. It’s very British and it won me over immediately at the beginning. It reminds me of the excellent dialogue in Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.
I love that this book pays homage to books and authors and poets. We see a varied of books listed and mentioned. The characters love their books whether it is Dickens, one of the Bronte sister, Robert Frost, Seneca or Charles Lamb.
I loved all the characters in this book, especially the literary society members. They are all vivid and brimming of life. I loved that they are all varied and quirky in some way or other.
As much as I loved Juliet’s and Dawesy’s character, in second place would be John Booker. What an interesting character he was! Imagine pretending to be Lord Tobias for 3 years and then being sent to Neuengamme camp when he was betrayed.
And who doesn’t love Isola for saying “reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones”?
The ending was predictable and was expected. With such an enchanting book you’d expect it to end on a happy note, and it does. I was surprised by Juliet’s carpe diem act though when I read it first. But after lengthy consideration, I thought it was appropriate and it shouldn’t have been that surprising.
My Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed this light hearted and uplifting book.It was fun to read, filled with wit and enchantment and kept me turning the pages. You’ll fall in love with the characters and it will leave you with a smile on your face.
I highly recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society!