Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

If you’ve seen any other reviews of this book, it is not unlikely you’ve seen comparisons to 84 Charing Cross Road. It’s somewhat inevitable, given the format of this novel, presented as it is in the form of letters between the various characters. It is a leisurely and familiar way to go about telling a story, and in this case works quite effectively.

As I’m finding it hard to pinpoint what exactly prompts me to give this book 4.5, if not 5, stars out of 5, I wonder if it is the authors’ skillful ability to represent humanity not only accurately but optimistically. While the recent history of World War II casts a shadow over the lives of the characters, from the start the reader knows there is more to this story than the devastation wrought by war – there is the constant hope of deliverance and the perseverance of a people not willing to submit themselves docilely to the invaders.

Not only does the method work and the story embody reality in a touching and poignant way, the characters pull one in with their life. They truly come alive in the pages of the book, and as the book progressed I think I came to think of them less as characters in a book than relatives who had given me the joy of this window into their earlier lives. We see relationships blossom and the fruits of life-long friendships. We cheer on our favorite character and have to chuckle a little when the busybody gets her comeuppance.

Shaffer and Barrows’ writing draws the reader into the world of this small island of the English channel. It is not a difficult read, but it is sprinkled throughout with gems of wisdom and wonder. One character observes that “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.” And The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a good book.

(cross-posted from Read All Over Reviews.)

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