Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I was originally going to read a street lit book, but something else caught my eye. Hamilton county has a program each year called "Hamilton Reads." This program encourages all of Hamilton county to form a book club, basically. We are all encouraged to read the same book in order to create more opportunites for discussion. There are also several programs centered around the book that take place during the two-month long program. This year's book is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Therefore, I've chosen to read this book, an historical fiction novel, as one of my six titles.

I really fell in love with this book. Although, I wasn't so sure during the first few pages. This book is written entirely through letters. It was a little difficult getting used to that format at first, but once I did I really came to enjoy it. There's something very personal about reading letters. You feel like you're getting to really know the other person through what they write. I also felt a bit like I was spying on other people by reading their personal letters. It was kind of fun.

This novel centers around Juliet Ashton, a writer living in London just after WWII. Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey. Mr. Adams tells Juliet that he had found a book that had once belonged to her. Her name was inside the cover. The book was by Charles Lamb and Mr. Dawsey asks Juliet if she could perhaps help him locate more books. He mentions that he is part of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet is intriqued by Mr. Dawsey and his literary society (particularly what the society's name means). She writes back, starting a pen-pal relationship with not only Mr. Dawsey, but all of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Juliet begins to develop friendships with the people of Guernsey through her letters and decides that she would like to write a book about them. She discovers that Guersney was occupied by the Germans during WWII. The islanders had it fairly rough during the war. The literary society actually came to be because of the German occupation. A group of the societies members were out past curfew one night, and when caught, they came up with the excuse that they were coming home from a literary group. The German officers were interested and let them go. The next day the group gathered as many books as they could find and began their made-up literary group in order to cover-up their lie. The facade became real. They were able to find an escape from the harsh reality of the world around them through books. Literature saved them in a way.

Juliet is fascinated by the islanders experiences and decides to travel to Guernsey herself where she falls even more in love with Guernsey and its people.

Filled with unique characters and relationships and information about WWII, literature, friendship and love, this is a book that I was easily able to become lost in. I would certainly recommend this to fans of historical fiction or literary fiction. This would also be a great suggestion to someone who enjoys untraditional formats.


  1. i just finished reading this one, and i agree with you on all counts! the whole letter-writing thing was a bit hard to get used to, but after that it was smooth sailing all the way through. i had difficulty putting it down to go to sleep!