1,518 of 1,558 people found the following review helpful
What a wonderful book! Having just finished this one, I am still smiling and thinking of the characters. Had I the time and money, I'd be booking a trip for Guernsey right this minute. As it is, I feel as though I've already visited and been made to feel at home.
Set in both London and Guernsey Island, this novel follows author Juliet as she becomes friends with the inhabitants of the island shortly after the end of World War 2. Told in epistolary style, Juliet learns of the occupied island and its deprivations, as well as the resounding spirit of the people who live there. As she writes, she becomes more and more intrigued with the stories of the people who survived the hard times, and she decides to create a book based on their experiences. In order to gather more information, Juliet moves temporarily to the island and soon finds herself immsersed in the culture and relationships.
This is absolutely one of the most delightful books I've read all year. The characters are real, the relationships are unique, and Juliet is hysterically funny, as well as warm hearted and genuine. I did have a bit of trouble keeping all the characters straight in the beginning, but once I caught on, I was enthralled. The pages just fly by and while you will learn a little of what happened to Guernsey during World War 2, you will learn much more about love and friendship. Highly recommended!
433 of 445 people found the following review helpful
I wasn't that eager to read this lovely book. The title sounded silly and I've read a few other books that were told entirely in the form of notes or letters like this one and I wasn't too impressed. And an aunt and her niece authoring a book together? I couldn't imagine it. Yet, miraculously, THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY manages to offer wonderful well rounded characters, a genuine sense of historic time and geographic place, some real inspiring stories of courage under hardship during World War II and a sweet if rather predictable love story.
The book takes place in England during the mid 1940's when the country was recovering from the effects of the long war years. The central character of the novel is Juliet, a thirty something single Londoner who has had some success writing a humorous newspaper column and is now looking for a book subject. Through chance and a mutual love of the power of literature Juliet begins corresponding with a group of diverse people on the British island of Guernsey who used books and the fellowship they found discussing them to help them get through the hideous occupation of their island by the Germans. The authors do a wonderful job giving unique voice and style to each of the letter writers (maybe having two authors really helped in this case) long before Juliet meets her new friends face to face. In the second half of the book, also written in letter form, Juliet is on Guernsey herself and this part of the book is not quite as strong as the beginning as the plot settles in to more of a traditional love story form and the literature themes are somewhat lessened. Still,through its final page, this is an original and entertaining book.
291 of 306 people found the following review helpful
During World War II, the Germans occupied Guernsey in the Channel Islands, so close to France that, apparently, you could see cars on the highway on a clear day. The Germans built heavy fortifications against the islanders, built a concentration camp on Guernsey, and Guernsey's children were evacuated to England.
Juliet Ashton is an author looking for her next great idea, when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, who lives on Guernsey, about Charles Lamb, to whose works we was introduced through the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The Society came to be in an unusual fashion: one evening after curfew, on their way home, some of its members were stopped by German soldiers, and Elizabeth McKenna had to make something up on the spot. Over time, the members got together whenever they could to talk about what they'd read. That's how Isola, for example, became addicted to Wuthering Heights.
Juliet lives in a London that was decimated by war; her apartment by the Thames has been lost, as well as all of her books (as you can imagine, horrifying). But her career as a writer is going well, and she has a potential love interest: the handsome and rich Mark. But Juliet's life changes as she receives more and more letters from the Guernsey Islanders, and she decides that she just might have to pay them a visit
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an utterly charming novel, written in an epistolary fashion, between not only Julia and her new friends, but her best friend from childhood and her brother (who also happens to be Juliet's publisher). It's a sweet, funny novel, and it reminds me a lot of 84, Charing Cross Road--mixed with a little bit of Excellent Women (Penguin Classics). The characters are all wonderful--you can't help but wishing you'd known them yourself--even Adelaide Addison. Each member of the cast of this book has his or her own unique voice. Some of the stories told in this book are tragic; some are funny; but I guarantee that all of them will be touching.
587 of 644 people found the following review helpful
There is so much to like about this book that I almost feel guilty for only giving it three stars. The book consists of a series of letters written during the post-World War II years from and to Juliet, a London-based writer, Juliet's publisher, Sidney, Juliet's friends, Juliet's suitor, and a group of residents of Guernsey (in the Channel Islands) who formed a book club of sorts during the German occupation of the island. In the course of their correspondence, Juliet develops a friendship with the members of the unfortunately named Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while discovering what their lives were like during the German occupation. The writing is beautiful and by the end of the book you feel like you know all of the characters extremely well -- especially the simple country folk of Guernsey who discover the magic of books while trying to survive the depredations of wartime. So what's the problem?
The authors obviously have a knowledge and love of great literature, but their loving description of so many classic and wonderful books and authors can't help but remind the reader of the elements that are missing here. The characters in the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are so unfailingly good and lovable that they ultimately don't seem real. There's a token curmudgeon and, of course, there are the Nazis, but it's all a bit WWII lite. I kept waiting for some depth or nuance, some real sense of wonder or horror, or just a new perspective, but nothing really develops. It's a sweet little story and I liked the book, but I doubt it will stay with me very long. It's enjoyable, well-intentioned and commendable, but ultimately, like the potato peel pie of the title, made with love but not truly satisfying.
I have no doubt most people will probably like this book quite a bit and that I'll probably be in the minority with my lukewarm review. It's just that when I think back a year from now on books about WWII that I've read over the years or even the books I read during 2008, a heartbreakingly beautiful and original novel like The Book Thief will stay with me and I'll read it again, while I'll probably have trouble remembering much about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society other than a general warm and fuzzy sense. It's a feel-good book and that's probably enough for a lot of people, but I can't help wishing there had been a little more to this novel.
86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2013
If this review and the promise of exquisite scenery, intelligent conversation, wry flirtations, and heartening nostalgia found within the pages of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society won't convince you to give the book a try, I don't know what will.
Told completely in descriptive letters, amusing telegrams, and exclusive marginal notes, this modern British classic details the lives and events of post-World War II civilians, particularly in bomb-raided London and the recently liberated Channel Islands. The backdrop is extraordinarily well set, with eye-opening and little-known flashes of war terror mingled with depressing, but rich details of Guernsey's isolation under the prolonged German occupation during the war (which lasted until 1945). Both the tempestuous German reign and the brief evocations of the Belsen concentration camps are horrific, but they contrast magnificently with the gorgeous portraits of post-war Guernsey.
Dawsey Adams finds the name and address of budding war commentator and novelist, Juliet Ashton, in a book he's acquired secondhand, and seeing that the particular title--a Charles Lamb classic--is well worn, he decides to write her expressing his admiration for the author and complimenting her taste. He doesn't expect Juliet to respond--she doesn't know who he is, after all--but with her spirit and partiality towards literature, she does--enthusiastically. And thus they embark on an exciting, sparkling correspondence.
Shaffer has breathed life into her delightful, vivid cast of characters. Dawsey, Sidney, Isola, Susan, the late Elizabeth, and young Kit--I fell in love with all of them! They're simply enchanting... such a diverse, memorable group. I want to see more like them in fiction, and frankly, more like them in real life!
Juliet is so my favorite. Rebellious, lovable, and charismatic, she marches to her own drum and has a satirical approach to everything. She's the perfect blend of compassion, angst, and irony, and I absolutely loved her as well. She may, from the viewpoints of her elders, have misplaced priorities and be rather reckless with her actions, but she is fiercely stubborn--fiercely passionate--and that's what makes her such a sensational person.
When introduced to a magical literary community, Juliet is able to free her inhibitions and revel in what she knows best and devotes to the most: books. She brings out the book lover in all of us, and her engagement with the Society poignantly demonstrates the marvelous escapism of books. Guided by the wisdom of literary heros like Austen and Lamb, her and the other members' lives, once crossed, will be changed forever. This book is perfect for those who love and are awed by the power of the written word--the power it has to bring people together.
I pathetically clung on to every word; stylistically and structurally, not one sentence is out of place. With smooth narration and keen insight, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful escape with luscious facets of history and immaculate observations that will immerses readers completely. A modern adaptation of a time-revered romance, it has the witticisms and hopeful predictability that is universally reminiscent in any era and any upbringing.
Here is a book to read again and again, and to cherish for a long time to come. It isn't just about the wonder of reading and friendship; it's about finding light in wartime, finding peace in destruction. It's about true love--true identity--and it delivers a quintessential message about humanity that we all ought to keep in mind: that in love, sometimes pride is a far, far bigger crime than prejudice.
Pros: Highly evocative in setting // Bright, endearing characters that I want to take home with me // Beautifully written, from multiple vibrant perspectives // Quaint British tone--my favorite! // Humorous // Memorable // Starry and stunningly romantic // Will appeal even to those who don't like historical novels; buoyant and chronicled, rather than dense and dull // Shrewd in emotional bearing // Heart-warming; a 100% feel-good read
Cons: The first few pages are a bit difficult to follow because you don't know who's who, but gradual character descriptions clear this up immediately // It ended!!!!
Love: "We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us."
Verdict: The miraculous effect of arts and culture, and the appreciation of literature and storytelling--and they way they both shape us humans--is luminously presented in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Expressive, magical, and utterly remarkable, this epistolary narrative is, in one breath, charming with sharp penetration and irresistible perspective. In between the suppression of grief-struck war memories and slow recuperation, is a beautifully refreshing, dazzling, and hopeful reminder that in stories--on paper and in pen--people live and love on. In Juliet's own words: "The war is now the story of our lives, and there's no denying it." So too with this novel.
Rating: 10 out of 10 hearts: I'm speechless; this book is an extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous masterpiece.
Source: Complimentary copy provided by TripFiction in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!).
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2009
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of those rare books about which I get to say the following: it was too short. I reached the end of it and mourned that I would no longer be a part of the lives of Juliet, Dawsey, Kit, Isola, Sidney and so many others.
Juliet Ashton, a Londoner, receives a letter from a resident of Guernsey, seeking information regarding Charles Lamb. From this rather innocuous beginning comes an epistolary novel featuring romance, war, deprivation, mourning, and the healing nature of reading and friendship. Told via letters between Juliet and her editor and then the residents of the formerly-occupied Guernsey, the novel wrapped itself around me like a warm quilt, and I was loath to step back out into the cold world after finishing the last page.
Juliet is so arch and clever that my laughter rang out through the house as I read her letters. Then, sometimes only a few moments later, I'd be reaching for a tissue. Mary Ann Shaffer is a writer of great talent, and her loss is a deep one. It breaks my heart to think that we will never hear her voice again. As for the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I'll carry them in my heart and memory always.
57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
I have, in the past, had occasion to say that reading was one of the most important things in life, right up there with family, food and sleep. This book not only reminded me why I believe that, but it gave me the warm, satisfying sense that I was among like-minded people.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (From now on, referred to as GLP3S) is an epistolary novel set at the close of WWII. It chronicles the correspondence of a London author who is suffering not so much from writer's block, but from idea block. Her letters to and from friends, her editor, and eventually the members of the aforementioned society, begin in a humorous tone -- if you're the sort who puts a great store in statistics, I'd estimate that I had a good, loud laugh about every three to five pages to start. I didn't think to tally the grins. But as the book goes on, the witty exchanges take on a deeper and more touching edge. We learn the background of the GLP3S, and then of its members. We learn what they suffered during the war, and their five-year-long occupation by the Germans, and we learn how they endured it. They don't fight the Germans so much as observe them, trick them when they can, endure them when they must. They are people of strength, compassion (most of them) and deep feeling. Their reading, and the exchange of ideas it inspires literally keeps some of them alive.
I don't want to say too much and spoil the novel. I want everyone to read it for themselves and come to know these people and how lovely and dear they are. And I hope, I hope every reader will be reminded of his/her love of the written word, and the understanding of how deeply it matters.
Five stars just aren't enough.
ETA: This book will not leave me alone. No sooner did I finish it and write the review than I began it again. I love every character, even the awful ones. I love the place. I love the way it's written. It's not just a book to cherish, but one to escape into when your day has sucked the soul from you. Juliet and the people of Guernsey will put you right.
The only quibble I have is that we never do find out what Juliet thought of the Potato Peel Pie with the festive topping. An oversight to be sure, but a minor one.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2009
At the start of this book--which is mainly epistolary in form--I had some difficulty in sorting out what was happening, who the writers of the letters were, and what were their relationships. Then,I must say,I got drawn into the book and was reluctant to put it down. But as I reached the last quarter of the book, I felt the plot incidents were overly contrived, leading up to a conclusion that any reader could see coming a mile away.
There is a lot of charm,humor,and interest in the book, which is essentially about the German occupation of the Island of Guernsey during the Second World War: but the letters--from a variety of sources, including a group of Guernsey residents--also contain much interesting anecdotal references to great figures of literature (Charles Lamb in particular). The letters also build up, from various angles, a central theme, which is about Elizabeth, who has a child by a German military doctor during the occupation--and her story is very compelling.
But then we move into odd plot contrivances as the principal character (an English writer--Juliet) arrives in Guernsey to meet those residents who have been corresponding with her--the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. And the book goes downhill from about that point, especially in the final pages when the epistolary form is abandoned in favor of a narrative by one of the nuttier members of the Society.
It is touching and quite moving in parts, and the anecdotes of the German occupation illuminate much about the good and the bad of human nature. I also feel the author(s) have captured the tenor of the times immediately after WW2, the date when the book is set, and the language seems to me to reflect very well the style of letter-writing at that time--high marks for that. I would give the book three stars. I am not sure it really deserves to be at the top of the New York Times best-seller list--I would guess that shows its appeal to women, who I understand are the big novel buyers.
But you should read it...see what you think.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2009
Don't get me wrong....this is a nice, little book to curl up with and read on a cold winter's day. Enough reviewers have already given synopses of the story of the German occupation of this picturesque island during WWII, so I'll skip that part. Suffice it to say, it's an enjoyable, quick read with real life characters that are very endearing. So why not five stars from me?
I think I started and put this book down at least five times. Each time I got bored with it. At this point, I had only gotten to about page 50. When I finally decided to push ahead and finish it some weeks later, I had to reread those fifty pages all over again just to get the characters sorted out. At the beginning of the book, it's hard to remember the relationship between the letter writers -- Sidney (publisher) and Juliet (author) and Susan (publicist) and Sophie (Sidney's sister and Juliet's best friend). I kept forgetting who was who. Then when Juliet started corresponding with the residents of Guernsey, I knew I would be totally lost if I did not go back and get all of these characters straight in my head. Once I did this, it was smooth sailing until the end.
I admit to enjoying epistolary novels because I like the way the story flows. What I couldn't understand about this one was how a letter written on the 23rd of a given month could be received in time for the recipient to respond by the 24th of that same month given the fact that the recipient was in another town or country. Even our postal service now cannot perform that miracle so I found it hard to believe this possible in post WWII. Guernsey reminded me of locales in England written about by authors like Rosamunde Pilcher. As I read more and more about the descriptions of the island, I actually felt I was reading either a book by Pilcher or one by Maeve Binchy.
I certainly don't want to turn anyone away from reading this novel. I just think with all the hoopla surrounding it, my expectations were set at a much higher level than could have possibly been achieved by this author. If you, like myself, are a lover of epistolary novels, some of my favorites are 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner. There's nothing like reading someone's back and forth correspondence or writings in one's diary to really get to know them . In this regard, the author was quite successful as I really got a good sense of what the main character, Juliet, was all about. And all in all, it did make me want to visit this tiny little place in history.
As with many books set in a time or place I'm unfamiliar with, I found myself doing so much research about Guernsey and it's inhabitants during the war. On this subject, the book did do justice to this place in time and did open my eyes to a world I'd known little about. One interesting tidbit I did find out was that in 1855, Victor Hugo found sanctuary on the Isle of Guernsey while fleeing political persecution. I've also recently added the DVD of Island At War to my Netflix queue. This is a BBC series of a fictional Channel Island during this time period.
So I'd say lower your expectations a bit and you'll probably enjoy it more than I did.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2008
I bought this book because of the reviews, and don't get me wrong, it's a pleasant way to pass a few hours. The superlatives for this book, however, seem misplaced.
The book reminds me somehow of the Girls' Annuals of the 1950s, which I read 20 or 30 years later; perhaps it's the can-do spirit of the people of the United Kingdom that allowed them to win the war, which percolates through both. Perhaps not many people remember them.
This book is cleverly written in an epistolary form. Some may think that such detailed letters were commonplace 60 years ago, but they weren't. It comes as a surprise when Juliet sends a telegram to one of her correspondents because she cannot wait for the next letter to find out the story.
Too many people are stereotypes, particularly the impetuous heroine with a ticking biological clock, the strong but silent hero, the good German, and the intolerant churchgoer. How many people did not know how the book was going to end? It is a facile country versus city and salt of the earth Guernseyman versus slick American tale.
The relationships are not well explored. Other books have done a much better job of describing how one can so easily fall in love with a child not one's own. It comes as a surprise here, and makes me think Juliet would have fallen in love with any child. Her overinvolvement in this society, too, comes as a surprise. She is a woman bored with London and in search of a cause.
I don't regret the AU$20 I spent on this, but it is not the most delightful or the most charming book I have ever read. The style and subject of this book are a sign of the age of the author. It is so sad that she did not live to see her book top the charts, and it is a reminder to us that the elderly have stories, and we should hear them before it is too late.
The rave reviews seem to indicate that most people have forgotten contemporary stories of the war and occupations. I wouldn't rush to buy it again,but it is a good holiday read.