Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a book of letters written by and to Juliet Ashton following World War II. Juliet is a writer, living in London and looking for a new idea for her next book when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer on Guernsey Island. Dawsey has acquired a book by Charles Lamb once belonging to Juliet (her name was in the book). He writes to tell her how the book had been important to him during the war and to ask if she knows of any others by Lamb. This letter starts a communication between Juliet and all the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which ultimately draws Juliet to Guernsey Island to meet them all.

My summary of this beautiful novel, written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows does it no justice. But I don't want to give away any of its magic for those of you who have not read it. I listened to this one on audio; I had to wait six months to get it from the library, but it was well worth the wait.

The audio is read by five different individuals: Paul Poehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, and Juliet Mills, and the effect is magnificent. I'm not an expert on dialect, but I thought the readings by all five people were wonderful. There was energy and passion in their readings. And the recording overall was extremely calming. This was the kind of audio that draws you to sit in your car a couple extra minutes after you arrive (regardless of how late you might be) because you just don't want to turn it off.

O.k., so it was a nice audio, but how about the book itself? The word that continually came to mind for me while I listened was CHARMING. It is utterly charming. In a time of devastation and heart ache a group of people bond together to find the good that still exists. They've all experienced loss and have been damaged by the war, but still they thrive through the mere existence of their love for one another. There is a wide range of characters on Guernsey, sharing an unlikely appreciation for literature.

The book at times is humorous, at other times it is heavy-hearted, and still yet it is uplifting and hopeful. This is not a fast-paced, heavily extrinsic action book. There is a lot of action, but it is intrinsic in nature and occurs in the form of relationships. So many relationships are forged and nurtured throughout the course of this plot. Relationships between the characters and the literature they choose to read; traditional relationships between the characters; even relationships the characters develop with themselves. At a time when there was so little in material form, relationships were priceless, and this book reflects that beautifully.

The final point I want to emphasize for TGLAPPPS is the romantic nature of the book. And when I say that I don't mean Harlequin romantic, I mean the romance of letter writing. It is such a beautiful art that is quickly dying away in an age of phones, e-mail and text messages. There is something so personal and special in a letter, but in these letters especially. The writers are putting themselves in their missives. They are drawing beautiful portraits with words, portraits that the receiver waits anxiously to find in the daily post. To me that is the essence of romance.

I will be purchasing a copy of this book for my personal library. It is one I know I will come back to again and again. Charming, romantic, lovely. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.


Joy February 25, 2009 at 8:58 PM  

I just loved this book, too! :)

Corey Wilde February 25, 2009 at 10:15 PM  

Ah, Jen, you're killing me here. I picked up six new books today, have another half dozen on reserve at the library and now I have to add this one to my list.

I can't even think, when was the last time I wrote a letter? Years, how many I don't know.

Steve Weems February 25, 2009 at 11:52 PM  

What a great review. Your enthusiasm for this book really comes through. Makes your blog fun to read.

Your review makes me think of my first 18 months in the US Army. My girlfriend sent me a letter everyday. Then, of course, I flew home from Germany and we got married.

Kaye Barley February 26, 2009 at 10:30 AM  

What a terrific write up, Jen! Lesa raved about this book, and now you. Guess I better get myself busy and read this one!!

Joe Barone February 26, 2009 at 10:37 AM  

My wife read this book and she said it was great. She's loaned it to someone else now, but when she gets it back, I might just dive into it as well. After all, I've had two good people recommend it now.

le0pard13 February 26, 2009 at 1:34 PM  

To be honest, this genre is not one I usually pick up. But, your review is infectious. I look over at Audible and it's highly rated: 4.59 out of 5 stars. And the audio sample of the work sounds wonderful. It's on my Wishlist now. Thanks, Jen, I think ;-).

Jen February 26, 2009 at 7:17 PM  

Awwww Steve! That's an awesome story. I love it. Thanks for sharing it.

Kaye, I think you'll definitely appreciate this one. And Michael I know there's a soft side to you, you'll appreciate these characters. They aren't our typical "dark" crime fiction, but they're rich and complex and fun.

Joe, I want to hear from you if you get around to reading this one!

Kay February 27, 2009 at 4:10 PM  

Jen, you wrote one of the best reviews of this book that I have read. Isn't it a marvelous book? So wonderful. My book group is reading it for April and I cannot wait to see what all those lovely older ladies make of it. I think they will love it. I read it first and then listened to it in audio and I concur that the audio is just beautiful. Such lovely voices. It was my top read of 2008. I love epistolary novels and this one will be a classic I believe.

Jen February 27, 2009 at 5:43 PM  

Wow Kay! What a generous compliment. Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me! So glad you stopped by.

S. Krishna March 4, 2009 at 6:23 PM  

I've heard such great things about this book! Thanks for the review.

Rosalyn Landor November 1, 2009 at 10:33 PM  

Hi everyone, this is Rosalyn Landor. I LOVED narrating my share of the roles for this audiobook, and it took all of us a little over 3 weeks to record all our respective pieces, but we are all extremely proud of the work we did. We won an Audie award this year for the audio production, and I now understand the book is in pre-production as a movie. It was lovely to read all your comments, and know we had given all of you who have listened such pleasure. A very special book, and one I shall always keep close to my heart for having had a connection to. Thanks again.

Nadia Santos June 27, 2015 at 12:43 AM  

I bought this book when it first came out and finally picked it up the other day, as the first of this years summer reads. I tried to take my time reading it, it's pure joy
and heartbreak. I was fascinated with the people of Guernsey, and would love to visit there. Can't recommend this book enough!

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