- Paperback: 290 pages
- Publisher: Dial Press (May 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385341008
- ISBN-13: 978-0385341004
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3,832 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Paperback – May 5, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet's name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book's epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet's quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
“Traditional without seeming stale, and romantic without being naïve” (San Francisco Chronicle), this epistolary novel, based on Mary Ann Shaffer’s painstaking, lifelong research, is a homage to booklovers and a nostalgic portrayal of an era. As her quirky, loveable characters cite the works of Shakespeare, Austen, and the Brontës, Shaffer subtly weaves those writers’ themes into her own narrative. However, it is the tragic stories of life under Nazi occupation that animate the novel and give it its urgency; furthermore, the novel explores the darker side of human nature without becoming maudlin. The Rocky Mountain News criticized the novel’s lighthearted tone and characterizations, but most critics agreed that, with its humor and optimism, Guernsey “affirms the power of books to nourish people during hard times” (Washington Post).
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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!).
I had forgotten what huge fan I was of epistolary novels, until diving into this book. The writing used immediately brought back memories of a few of my favorite childhood reads. It took little effort before I became utterly captivated by this page turner.
The authors ability to verbally paint the characters left me imagining distinct voices for each of them. This read felt as though I was watching a play, as the story unfolded one page at time. However, consider yourself warned, this book caused a few late nights and very rough mornings because I was incapable of putting it down.
I agree with a few of the other reviews, I wanted this story to be longer. Following this book I had an extremely difficult time finding another that I could really dive into because I NEEDED more from Mary Ann Shaffer. Her touching story about a community coming together during dark times took me on a roller coaster of emotions and will be at the top of my list of recommended reads for anyone who likes historical fiction and enjoys epistolary novels such as the 'Dear America' series by Ellen Emerson White.
I rarely write reviews and I was not compensated in any way, shape, or form to do so, which I hope speaks volumes of my sincere fondness for this book.
Lucky me, I got to read it while visiting Guernsey!
Was this book worth the Kindle Price? $8.63 USD. Yup, absolutely!
Is it a page turner? Yes.
Did I want to be reading this book when I wasn't reading this book? Yes.
Did I learn anything from this book?
Yes, loved all the information so subtly provided about the German occupation. It's like a history book without the boring bits.
Did I think about this book after I was finished reading.
Yes, it has stayed with me. It's been a month since I put it down but I still do think of it. Luckily, I was able to get a fridge magnet of the book cover while in Guernsey.
My only negative comment - now this may sound petty as I really did enjoy all the books and all the characters! But I did notice they all have the same voice. We don't all write letters in the same style and this was not reflected in the book. All the letters were written in the same particular witty style. Made for good fun reading but I did find that a bit strange as like I said, we do all write differently!