Friday, July 16, 2010

Book review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


My mother-in-law lent me her copy of this book when I was last visiting her in March.  We have since then organized a little book club that includes my two cousins (see their blogs here and here), my sister, my mom and my mother-in-law.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was the second book we read together.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel which means it's a novel of letters.  (Don't worry I didn't know what epistolary meant either until our book club meeting when my literary cousin mentioned it.)  When I first thumbed through the book I thought, how could a plot actually develop through only letters?  But miraculously it does! 

The book begins in London post World War II with Juliet Ashton writing to her publisher and dear friend Sidney pondering what her next book should be about.  Soon she finds herself corresponding regularly with members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  (It is an interesting name for a book club to be sure and the story of how the society got it's name is a good one!) Through these letters Juliet unravels the story of Guernsey during the German Occupation.

For those of you that don't know Guernsey is part of the Channel Islands that sit in the English Channel between Britain and France.  After reading this book I am anxious to travel there. 

This book is filled with inspiring and inspired characters.  Some can't help but make you laugh, some make you think deeply, and some you want to just punch in the face.  Being a book about a literary society there is glorious talk about books some of which I had never heard of but are now waiting for me at the library to be read soon.  If your looking for a fun summer read I highly, highly recommend this book.

Here are a few quotes from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to peak your interest:

"It was a sad wrench to part with the Selected Essays of Elia.  I had two copies and a dire need of shelf-room, but I felt like a traitor selling it... I wonder how the book got to Guernsey?  Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.  How delightful if that were true."

"Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books."

"It seems to me the less [Shakespeare] said, the more beauty he made. Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most?  It is 'The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.'  I wish I'd known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, plane-load after plane load of them - and come off ships down in the harbor!  All I could think was damn them, damn them, over and over.  If I could have thought the words 'the bright day is done and we are for the dark,' I'd have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance - instead of my heart sinking to my shoes."

"Then she said, 'It would have been better for her not to have such a heart.' Yes, but worse for the rest of us."

"This obsession with dignity can ruin your life if you let it."

"The story is about to begin, and every day with be a new piece of plot."



What good books are you reading?

3 comments:

  1. oh, i'm so glad you put up this review. i've actually had this book on my shelf for a couple months. i tried to start reading it ... but couldn't follow ... or wasn't in the mood. i guess i will need to pick it up again soon. was it hard for you to follow? or get into? i'm reading 'little bee' by chris cleave. it is an amazing book. highly recommended!

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  2. I liked this book too. You are so lucky to be able to participate in a book club - it's on my list of aspirations!

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  3. Michael - I'll admit it did take a little while before I got really into the book. About 30-50 pages in is when it happened. Occasionally in the beginning I would agree that the letter format was hard to follow but after awhile it becomes easy and effortless and you don't realize your reading letters anymore! Stick with it, it's worth it. Thanks for the recommendation I haven't heard of that one!

    Stacy- Being in book club was on my list of aspirations for years and years. Even in high school I wanted to have a little book club. This one sort of fell together magically somehow without any real effort. Hopefully you'll find your book club soon.

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