The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This read came to me in the best way possible. My dear, dear cousin sent me this book in the mail with a letter declaring that I needed to read it as soon as possible and write her back with my thoughts. The sheer brilliance of sending it with such a letter will become abundantly clear in a moment.
What’s the Book?
If you haven’t seen the Netflix adaptation (which is amazing and very true to the story, by the way) I’ll fill you in. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a charming book centering around a young author in post-war London. If that’s not enough of a setting for you, our author Juliet Ashton is about to find herself on an island I genuinely didn’t know existed. She is leading a successful life as an author, touring for her most recent book with the help of her publisher and oldest friend. When she receives a letter from a member of a literary society on the island of Guernsey she forms friendships that redefine her life and bring her new meaning.
Guernsey is a unique book even in how it’s presented. The story is told entirely through letters and telegrams between the characters. I was genuinely skeptical of this format to start. It seemed like a really interesting concept, but I was worried that the letter writing format would be the only thing the book was about. I needn’t have worried. Which brings me to my next point.
Why It’s a Top Ten
First, the letter-writing format is a stroke of genius. Any fears I might have had about the story getting lost in the delivery were immediately allayed. Each character was presented so completely and clearly in the style of their letter writing, I not only had a total sense of who they were but found myself immediately rooting for them. It’s not often that you encounter a book that completely refreshes the art of storytelling, but Guernsey manages to do that. That’s not the book’s only strength, however.
As a writer, this is one of those books that keeps the passion for what you’re doing alive.
Every single character in this book has experienced tragedy, shared or otherwise. First they’ve lived the horror and fear of the war in which they lost people they cared desperately for. In the midst of that hardship, they used the power of books to build not just a sense of normalcy but of fellowship too.
Even after the war is over, they’re still smacked with all the pain and repercussions of what they lost. They’re living in a world that would like nothing more than to leave them adrift in their pain with no way to pull themselves back out again. And still, these characters find refuge in books and in doing so hold on to each other.
The characters of Guernsey may be fictional and from a completely different time period, but their hardship and resilience are easily recognizable in ourselves. Avid readers who have experienced heartbreak know the power books have in providing shelter and escape. When the world around you is falling apart, books are always there to give you a place to breathe and put everything down. They may not solve the problem, or even touch it for that matter, but they provide escape and refuge and sometimes that’s more than enough
Guernsey offers a place to put the worry and troubles of your world down for just a little bit. That’s all anyone can ask of a book.