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

What drives my interest in a novel is the characters. If there is one character whom I admire or care about, I’m sold on the book. In this novel, falling in love with the characters happens to the protagonist as well as to the reader.

Juliet Ashton, a writer living in London just after World War II, is looking for a topic for a new book. She is sick of all the devastation and depression of war, but she cannot seem to leave it all behind either. In the midst of her doldrums, a letter arrives from Dawsey Adams, a stranger on the island of Guernsey who has by chance purchased a second-hand book that once belonged to her. He writes to the name and address he finds on the flyleaf to ask Juliet if she can find him any more books by this author.

In the course of their correspondence, Dawsey mentions the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Juliet’s curiosity will not rest until she knows its history and, especially, how it got its name. What she learns convinces her that an interesting book topic may be in the offing. Dawsey asks other members of the society to write to Juliet, and they tell her how reading and discussing books has helped them make it through the terrible experiences of the war.

The novel is written in epistolary form, as a series of letters. We learn about Juliet’s life through her correspondence with her friends, and about the islanders’ lives through their correspondence with her. This is a perfect form for a novel about the transforming effect of the written word. The different voices, especially those of the island folk, are each beautiful and unique, full of their own pain, joy, and charm.

Eventually, Juliet realizes she must go to this island that has come to seem more like home than her dingy London flat. What she finds there takes her beyond a new book topic into a new life.

Also see my colleague Mary P.’s excellent blog on this book.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

 

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