This is one of the best books that I have read since Pride & Prejudice and The Moon And Six Pence. To me, there are good books and there are great books. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is in the latter category.
Personally, I define a great book as one which I am afraid to reach the last page; and when it does, I feel sadness and regret. I want the book to go on and on forever. That would certainly turn a great book into a bad one.
The name of this book sounds quite odd at first and is a mouthful to pronounce. The first thought that came to my head when I came across this book title was – ‘What’s Guernsey and what’s Potato Peel Pie?” But the reviews of the book intrigued me. Every single review I read on the Internet is a glowing one.
Guernsey is an island off the coast of Normandy and belongs to Britain. The book, an epistolary novel, is set in Guernsey immediately after World War II ended.
The story revolves around the exchange of letters between Juliet Ashton, a 30-something author who made her name writing a newspaper column during the war, and a group of residents in Guernsey. The letters contain anecdotes – actually, very sad stories told in an amusing way – of the residents about their lives during the German occupation of Guernsey.
The group of residents are members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club which was set up on the spur of the moment to conceal a roast pig dinner from the German soldiers. To keep up with the farce, the members continued to meet to discuss the books that they have read. Eventually, the members found solace in books which nourished their soul and kept their spirits up during the difficult times. As food was scarce then, the members fed themselves with a pie made out of potatoes and potato peel during their book club meetings.
Told in a dry and matter-of-fact manner, the book gave me an insight into how the people of Guernsey lived under the Germans, how they tried to secretly feed the Polish war slaves who were being worked to death by the Germans, and most of all, staying courageous in the face of adversity, nurturing friendships and the strength to live and survive under oppression.
I love the writing in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The characters in the book came alive for me and I felt like I knew these people. The language is so breezy and witty yet the words are tinged with heaviness, sadness and longing for friends and family who had perished during the war.
Actually, what really piqued my curiosity about this book is the German occupation of Guernsey. I have always been very interested in novels and films about the Holocaust eversince I first read I Am David at the age of thirteen years old. I Am David was one of my literature texts in Secondary One and it is another favorite book of mine. (My husband pointed out to me that reading history books will give me more accurate insights into the Third Reich but such books bore me to tears. *Snore*
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a keeper. It is a pity that the author of the book, Mary Ann Shaffer, passed away before the book was actually published. I cannot look forward to reading more of her writing.