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.