Thursday, April 28, 2011

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

The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society by Marry Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I am not usually interested in reading popular literary fiction. I am very much a genre reader, but I saw the book trailer for The Gurnsey Potato Peel Pie Society, and I found myself very interested in the premise of the book.
The Channel islands were occupied by German troops during WWII, and this book tells the story of the occupation through the lens of a literature society formed hastily one night in order to hide the fact that the participants were feasting on an illegally acquired pig. This varied group of party goers then has to keep up the pretense to throw off the German authorities. Very few of the party goers were naturally readers, but all of them end up finding meaning in the literature they read to help them through the brutal German occupation.

The entire book is told in the format of letters. Much of the story is told through the voice of Juliet, a writer, who is looking for a new story idea after her popular war time humor column. She receives a letter from a man named Dawsey, a member of this literary society. Juliet becomes interested in the literature society and the plight of the entire Island during the war. This correspondence spreads to include the entire literature society, and several of the Island inhabitants. The book often reads as first hand historical accounts of the German occupation of the Channel islands during WWII, and since Juliet is collecting information for her book there is a ton of different perspective and stories.

I found the characters and format of the novel interesting. Each character has a strong personality and voice of their own, and so many of the letters have unique flavor, which makes them pretty fun to read. The literary society is such a random group of people with weird personalities that hearing about how they interacted is pretty amusing at times. Yet it can also be sad as they remember the trials they had during the war time, and how the struggled to get through it.

That said I felt like the book didn’t have that strong of a plot because of the format. The letters were interesting to read because of the characters and history, but it felt like the book went on forever because there was not a huge plot line linking everything together. Some letters were very heavy on history and background. So, some of the book dragged on for me. Yet, by the end I was won over and I still had the characters wandering around in my head for couple days afterward. I felt like the novel did a good job of transporting the reader to another time and place, and I was disappointed when the story ended. I wanted to hear more little anecdotes about the lives of these funny, beloved, and flawed characters.

So, if you like history (especially WWII) and are game for a unique storytelling style this really could be an enjoyable read.

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