Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


I just finished this book -- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I was lucky to get an advance reading copy from the New Yorker. What a delightful summer read!

Novels written through letters (epistolary novels, if you're persnickety about vocab) tend to distance the reader from the story, I think. Instead of being immersed in the events of the story, the reader is a bystander, hearing about them, by eavesdropping, later. However, I found myself engrossed in the characters and plot of this book.

Juliet Ashton is a writer on a book tour, as this novel begins. She receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey, who by chance has a copy of a book about Charles Lamb that she once owned. The story is told through letters between this man, Dawsey Adams, and Juliet, as well as letters to and from Juliet's best friend, Sophie, her publisher, Sidney, and others.

The story takes place just after World War II. Guernsey's history during the war is a very interesting part of this book. Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, was occupied by the Germans for 5 years during the war. The title refers to an initially fictitious literary society, "created" to provide an alibi for neighbors caught out after curfew. To substantiate their alibi, the literary society begins reading and discussing books together.

This is a story where "story" features strongly -- as a theme of the book, but also in the sense that besides charming characters, there is an interesting plot as well.

The book is due for release on July 29 -- I'd heartily recommend it for anyone (but I think the main audience for this book will be women) who likes warm-hearted, history-based fiction with a British bent.

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