The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society = 70 down, 30 to go

28 Jul

Historical fiction
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer
and Annie Barrows
274 pages

From June 1940 until May 1945, the Channel Islands, located between southern Great Britain and northern France, were actively occupied by German forces. In the book, a number of islanders are stopped on the road by German soldiers after they are caught out after curfew. In effort to cover their illegal gathering and avoid suspicion, one of the quick-thinking friends tells the soldiers they are returning home after a meeting of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The made-up alibi quickly becomes an actual book society, as the friends, of course, invited the Germans to attend if they should ever be in the neighborhood.

The book – told through a series of letters – starts in 1946 when writer Juliet Ashton befriends one of the society members through a series of letters. On the hunt for her next book project, she moves to the island and befriends members of the society members. Throughout the book, they share their experiences during the occupation with her, including the relocation of all the children off the island at the beginning of the invasion. Juliet falls in love with the island, the people and a young girl born during the occupation, whose mother has since passed. She eventually finds love with islander Dawsey Adams, and they set out to raise the little girl together.

I thoroughly adored this book – the lost art of letter writing showcased between a true cast of characters, and best of all, at its core, it’s about books and reading. From a couple of the early letters, these lines immediately struck a cord with me:

Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.

And in describing how a book reached the island:

Perhaps there is some secret sort of honing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.

This last one is a particularly accurate statement for me, as there are many, many times over the years, when at just the precise, perfect moment, the right book has snuck its way stealthily into my hands.

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