Rating : 10/10
There are several times when I've wished I could do a Thursday Next and get inside a book and live with the characters. I desperately wanted my letter from Hogwarts to arrive, so that I could be part of that wonderful magical world of witches and wizards. I longed to rush to Derbyshire and lounge in the library at Pemberley. And now, I want to take the first plane to Guernsey and be part of the marvellous Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
I have nothing but praise for this epistolary novel which is definitely among the best books I've read this year. It is everything I'd want a good book to be: engaging, heart-warming, emotional, well-written and ultimately, unforgettable. The only complaint I have about the book is that it ended.
Author Juliet Ashton, while in search of an idea for her next book, receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, about a book that she once owned which is now in his possession. That chance correspondence leads to stories being exchanged about each other and soon, other members of the literary society write to Juliet, sharing their experiences about life during the German Occupation of Guernsey.
Mary Ann Shaffer wrote the majority of this magnificent book, before illness forced her niece Annie Barrows to take over and rewrite some parts. The first thing that struck me about this book was how personal the writing seemed, as you find yourself reading letters to and from different people who you grow to care about infinitely. The subtle wit, humour and realism of this very quotable book is amazing. In addition to being exquisitely charming, there is just so much talk about books in general. People talk about the books they've read that impacted their lives, kept them sane and busy when they faced all kinds of trauma. People talk of their favourite writers and recommend books to each other. People reference literary characters and try to be like them. That was all I needed. It felt like home. See this, for example:
'I remember lying in our hay-loft reading The Secret Garden with a cowbell beside me. I'd read for an hour and then ring the bell for a glass of lemonade to be brought to me. Mrs. Hutchins, the cook, eventually grew weary of this arrangement and told my mother, and that was the end of my cowbell, but not my reading in the hay.'
I believe that sometimes, the simplest tales are the ones that touch your heart and that is definitely the case with this book. I adored how nothing was pretentious about the book! Something as tragic and painful as the occupation of Guernsey by Germans who subjected the people to great problems, is told from the point of view of a commoner. It's brutally simple and so very real. Though this is a center point of the book, never is the book depressing. On the contrary, it is heart-warming, inspirational and filled with hope.
This book has some of the most memorable characters I've ever read. Juliet Ashton is delightfully witty and definitely the girl you would love to be friends with! The members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are about as different as the society's name itself and they pull you into their world. I felt like I should take a walk with the strong, silent Dawsey, have tea with kindhearted Amelia and try out Will Thisbee's potato peel pie, discuss Pride and Prejudice with the wild and vivid Isola (my favourite), play with little Kit and learn more about her amazing mother Elizabeth McKenna.
You see what I mean? This book will make you want to be part of it. It will make you smile. It will make you hope for your favourite characters to get together. It will make you think about things that went wrong in the world but will more than compensate your feeling of sadness by reminding you of some of the most exciting bunch of characters.
Mary Ann Shaffer with co-author Annie Barrows ( Photo Credit )
Reading this book is like sipping a warm cup of tea and watching through your window while it rains. It's comforting and I definitely recommend you read it. It saddens me that Mary Ann Shaffer is not alive to see the impact and reach of this book. I can't thank her enough for hours of reading pleasure. I'm so glad I bought this book and look forward to rereading it soon! This one is a keeper.