Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author(s): Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
ISBN: 9780385340991/ Dial Press, 2008
Genre: World War II fiction
First Line: Dear Sidney, Susan Scott is a wonder.
It would be almost impossible to be a book lover in this day and age and not be aware of all the flap over this novel when it was published. As usual, I checked to see what the book was about, decided it sounded like something I would enjoy, and put it on my wish list at Paperback Swap. There was quite a line of people waiting for the book, and I knew that, by the time a copy found its way into my hands, most of the buzz would have died down. Many times I think all the hype surrounding a book can raise a reader's expectations of it too much. As a result, I tend to let the clamor (and my own expectations) die down a bit before I go ahead and read it.
I was hooked by "the potato book" almost from the very first page. Novelist Juliet Ashton is worn down from book tours and tired of writing about the war. She wants to find a different subject on which to focus her attention. Little does she know that she's going to find exactly what she needs when she opens a letter written by Guernsey native Dawsey Adams. Adams came across her name in a used book and writes to know if she's aware of any good biographies of Charles Lamb? She does, and a wonderful correspondence begins that gradually encompasses many of the natives on that small Channel Island as they begin to tell her their experiences during the Nazi occupation.
I loved Juliet's voice and the entire cast of characters in this book. I read a comment here and there about too many threads in a wandering plot, but I thought the lives of the characters unfolded perfectly in the letters written by Juliet and others. Meeting a new person and finding out about that person's life is not a straight line; the path meanders. Moving from one character's life to another also means that, if you don't care for a particular person, you're not stuck reading about him (or her) indefinitely. I always learned just enough about one character to make me want to keep turning the pages to gather the next nugget of information.
Who's going to enjoy The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? Lovers of epistolary novels, lovers of books set during World War II, and lovers of marvelous characterization. If you've put off reading this book, now might just be the time for you to break down and read it. I waited, and my own expectations were greatly exceeded.
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