The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.
In starting off this review, I think it's safe to assume that many of you out there are book lovers. Bibliophiles. Bookworms. Readers. So my lovely readers, what is the one thing all book addicts adore more than anything (other than free books) when reading a book for the first time? Well, at least in this readers case, it would be cracking open a book only to discover it is all about other people discovering and loving books too. le sigh. It's like meeting another kindred spirit, only in book form, who too understands just exactly how paper and ink can be turned into something breathtakingly profound.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
is a witty and ever-so-charming epistolary novel set just after the end of World War II in London. Juliet Ashton, a successful young novelist, has just finished an exhausting book tour for her publisher (and dear friend) Sidney Stark when she receives a letter from a farmer/fisherman from the Channel Island of Guernsey asking for book recommendations for his literary society. Currently between book ideas, Juliet is intrigued by this simple request and eagerly continues her correspondence with the fisherman and other Guernsey Literary Society members. What she receives are countless letters detailing individual accounts of life during the German Occupation of their small island - some hilarious, some heartbreaking, and others simply charming. Above all, Juliet receives a collection of letters explaining how and why these average working men and women fell in love with books and became true readers. And just because some accounts were so profound, let me share this passage where Eben Ramsay explains why he feels Shakespeare was "thinking of men like me when they wrote their words":
It seems to me the less he said, the more beuaty he made. Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most? It is "The bright day is done, and we are for the dark."

I wish I'd known these words on the day I watched those German troops land, plane-load after plane-load of them -- and come off ships down in the harbor! All I could think of was damn them, damn them, over and over. If I could have thought the words "the bright day is done and we are for the dark," I'd have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and content with circumstance -- instead of my heart sinking to my shoes.
That, is why I read books. 

Of course all these honest and witty letters and telegrams lead Juliet to make the voyage to Guernsey herself where she finds herself falling in love with not only the people but the island itself. As she states in a letter to Sidney:
Quite apart from my interest in their interest in reading, I have fallen in love with two men: Eben Ramsey and Dawsey Adams. Clovis Fossey and John Booker, I like. I want Amelia Maugery to adopt me; and me, I want to adopt Isola Pribby.
And let me continue with Juliet's thoughts by adding: Juliet Ashton and Sidney Stark, I want to have as pen pals and Kit, I want to play "dead bride" with.

If you, like me, are one of the very few people yet to read this surprising little book, please do yourself a favor and do so at once. I have no idea why I let it languish on my bookshelf for months on end, but I am just kicking myself for not diving in sooner, because it is absolutely wonderful. History, love, humor, heartbreaking trials, and of course, books. A must-read for any bibliophile.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion (there are lots): 
Bermudaonion's Weblog review
Booking Mama review
Maw Books Blog review 
She is Too Fond of Books... review
Small Reads Reads review

book source: purchased


Holly said...

I've wanted to read this for awhile now. Maybe I will bump it up.

Michelle said...

Holly - Oh goodness, you will adore it. I don't know why I didn't pick it up sooner either, but trust me when I say you're in for a treat.

Chachic said...

Excellent review, Michelle! I agree with you that it's always a treat to read about characters who are book lovers as well. It also has a nice cover, another plus point. :)

Shelley said...

Love that time period. Casts a certain light on everything in it.

Michelle said...

Chachic - Almost as good as finding other book lovers online, no? ;) And yep, the cover is just as lovely as the inside. Did you read it too?

Shelley - Yes. That time during & after WWII contained so much suffering that it winds up turning any account into something really special.