The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society | Book Review
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was first published in 2008.
It’s 1946 and Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.”
Before we proceed further with the review, let me just put it out there that when I am constructing a review, it is solely based on my experience as a reader of this book. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. I am mentioning this because there are parts of the book that I like and parts that I don’t particularly like. The idea behind this blog is to give a fair and balanced review. This is not to hurt anybody’s sentiments. It is my job to provide my perspective on the book and I will do that without bias.
Now that we have that out of the way let’s get on with the review.
I came across this book during the New Delhi World Book Fair 2018. If I am being honest the title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, made me curious about the book’s content. The first question that popped into my head was, “What does pie have anything to do with a literary society?” followed by “What is a potato peel pie?”. (Ever the hungry Bibliophile.) So I read the blurb to finally make a decision.
The romance of an epistolary format of writing did me in. I have always been a sucker for letters being used to unfold the story bit by bit, revealing new characters letter by letter. The authors have done a great job at maintaining the interest of the reader even in this format while doing justice to the plotline. This format gives you an engaging insight of the life and time of the people living in a post-war state.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set in 1946, only a year after the end of the second world war and follows the protagonist, Juliet, on her journey as an author in search of a story as well as her exploration of the once German-occupied Guernsey. The themes of war, survival, and perseverance have been explored in the same breath as the themes of an author’s search for a story, the love of reading and self-discovery. Some of the most beautiful lines in the novel come from Juliet when she is discussing literature with others.
The language of the book is simple and straightforward, and anyone who loves reading will be able to relate to Juliet’s love for her books and how her books are more important to her that some people. Interestingly, books are also why she meets some significant characters in the story.
However, the one thing that put me off was how the East India Company was mentioned in passing, in an almost flippant manner. As a reader, it would have made more sense to me if the author had drawn parallels between the colonization of India with the occupation of Guernsey, and there are plenty to be made. It would have added another perspective to the fold. Or the company should not have been mentioned at all, it was not necessary to the plot in any manner.
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