Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Publisher: The Dial Press, August 2008
Number of pages: 274
Rating: 5 out of 5
I’ve seen this book praised on blogs for about a year. I even bought one for Bookfool‘s birthday. But, every time I’ve picked it up to read myself, I’ve put it down again; I don’t like books written in letter format.
When my dear friend down the street brought it over before we went to Costco to pick up a birthday cake for her husband, I thought, “Now I’ll have to read it because Carol gave it to me, and I don’t want to disappoint her.” Believe me, I read the first few pages kicking and screaming.
But, I am here to tell you it is worthy of every accolade you have heard tell about it. Another WWII story? Yes. Written in letters? Yes. Charming, heartfelt, living and breathing characters who make you want to be their friends in real life? Yes!
I am completely charmed by the inhabitants of Guernsey: Dawsey Adams, Amelia Maugery, Isola Pribby, Eben Ramsey, Adelaide Addison, Clovis Fossey, John Booker, Will Thisbee, and most especially Elizabeth McKenna and her daughter Kit.
Through these letters, we are shown the spirit of Elizabeth: one of great heart and compassion, one of courage and boldness. It is as much a story of Elizabeth as it is the recipient of the islanders’ letters, Miss Juliet Ashton.
Their lives merge when author Juliet Ashton embarks upon a trip to Guernsey to see for herself what the Literary Society is all about; how each member speaks of a book they have read at one of their meetings, and then debates are often held for hours.
For every book lover, for every believer in the arts as well as the overall goodness of humankind, this book is for you. It’s the best book I’ve read all summer. If only I could have met Elizabeth in real life.
I am talking to you about Elizabeth McKenna. Didn’t you ever notice how everyone you interviewed sooner or later talked about Elizabeth? Lord, Juliet, who painted Booker’s portrait and saved his life and danced down the street with him? Who thought up the lie about the Literary Society-and then made it happen? Guernsey wasn’t her home, but she adapted to it and to the loss of freedom. How? She must have missed Ambrose and London, but she never, I gather, whined about it. She went to Ravensbruck for sheltering a slave worker. Look how and why she died.
Juliet, how did a girl, an art student who had never held a job in her life, turn herself into a nurse, working six days a week in the hospital? She did have dear friends, but in reality she had no one to call her own at first. She fell in love with an enemy officer and lost him; she had a baby alone during the war time. It must have been fearful, despite all her good friends. You can only share responsibilities up to a point.” (p. 201)