Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Publisher: The Dial Press
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 3/5 stars
Why I read it/how I found it: My sister suggested this one, and I do have an interest in WWII
Description: January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she's never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb....

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends--and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society--born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island--boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Review: This novel is told in a series of letters from various characters to one another, and sometimes telegrams or a quickly scribbled note. For me, Guernsey started out slow. I didn't get emotions I wanted to feel about a post-war country and characters at the beginning, and I'm still not certain if a book entirely in letters was the best idea. They provided insight into many characters, but at the same time, I wanted more scene which you generally don't get with letters. It wasn't until part two that I really got invested in the storyline and what was going on with the plot. I would say for the most part, this is a character-driven story, which is one of its finest attributes. The characters are lively and so real. One of the characters I had been drawn to the most didn't even write a letter, so I never "heard" her voice, but she was as real and dear as the other characters who did have an opportunity to voice their thoughts. When they did bring up the war, I found it very moving, especially when they mention the Germans. I love it when books don't highlight sides as black and white. Obviously, I believe that the Nazis were horrible and as black as you can get, but this novel took you back from Hitler and sometimes brought you to the individual level of the German soldier, who were not so black. I very much enjoyed that distinction for us to all remember the soldier and individual.
Recommendation: Read if you have time.
Should I buy it?: Eh, only if you get a really good price for it. Otherwise, check up on your friends and the library.
Other information: Annie Barrow's website is here and unfortunately, Mary Ann Shaffer has passed away. And in my research of the book, I found an IMDB page. There isn't much information in it yet, but a movie could be in the works.

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