First off, what a fantastic title. While the cover wasn’t particularly splendid, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel caught my eye straight away. It simply had one of those titles that makes you cock your head and go “huh?” in just the right way.
Aside from its name, the novel is unique due to its epistolary format. Like me, dear reader, you likely haven’t seen many epistolary novels. My only other experience with novels written entirely as a series of letters came in college, when I read Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Epistolary novels are few and far between these days. They hit their stride in the mid-eighteenth century and remained one of the most popular literary formats up until the nineteenth century. Since then, epistolary novels have waned in popularity and are relatively uncommon today.
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows revive the epistolary novel, shaping it into a confection of sheer delight.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society recounts the lives of book lovers on the island of Guernsey under the German Occupation during World War II. The novel’s heroine, wartime writer and book lover Juliet Ashton, connects with the contingent on Guernsey through a happy coincidence. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Soceity follows the lives of these quiet individuals as they slowly become increasingly intertwined.
Shaffer and Barrows are delightfully quotable, humorous, and heart-warming. Their account of the German Occupation slices through the black-and-white image of “evil” Germans and “good” victims, opting instead for a more balanced, realistic recounting of events.
On a final note, Juliet Ashton is the type of heroine you wish you could meet in real life. Or, in this case, correspond with via letter! You just want to shake her out from between the covers of the book and transplant her into your life.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a book by book lovers, for book lovers, which recounts the magical way in which great novels touch lives and bring people together.
PS: I am somewhat inclined to go off and try to bake a potato peel pie now.