Good Morning Folks! Today I have the good fortune of having one of my favourite Book reviewers – Anamika Agnihotri – do up a fabulous review of a book set in the Second World War era. – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Its a book I really loved reading and later watched the movie too.
Anamika Agnihotri is a mother of a 6-year-old son, D. She is an observer, an optimist, an introvert, a spiritual seeker and an eternal learner. Anamika is committed to the cause of raising a reader. She blogs about her parenting journey with her son, about the fun anecdotes from their lives and about her love for books on her blog ‘The Bespectacled Mother‘.
She also writes children’s books reviews on her other blog The Yellow Book Shelf. She has been contributing parenting articles and Picture Book reviews for various online forums such as BabyChakra, World of Moms, Indian Moms Connect and Mompresso.
You can connect with her on –
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Book Review
A few years ago, I came across a book review on a blog of the book ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. I found the name too long and much of a tongue twister. I couldn’t come to pronounce the word ‘Guernsey’ in my head and, believe it or not, this handicap held me back from picking up this book for reading although the review said the book is good. In May, this year, I found out there was a movie based on the book which released in April 2018. I watched the trailer and, finally, I knew how to pronounce the word ‘Guernsey’ right. The impediment being dismissed, hence, I sat down to read the book which I must have bought more than a year ago.
The story begins in London in January 1946 with Juliet Ashton, an author, writing a letter to her editor/publisher/friend Sidney Stark of being tired of the book tours for her successful book ‘Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War‘. At the same time, she is also looking out for a story to write her new book. She receives a letter from an unknown person, Dawsey Adam, a resident of the island of Guernsey, telling her he found her name and address from a book which incidentally landed in his hands. As he liked it very much, he requests her to send a name and address of a London bookstore so that he can order more books by the same author.
What followed were subsequent and frequent letter exchanges between Dawsey Adam and Juliet Ashton through which Juliet gets to know Dawsey is a member of a book club by the name The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’, the back story of a roast pig playing a role in the setting up of the book club, the name and the idea coming into existence with the presence of mind exercised by another islander, Elizabeth McKenna, in the wake of an extremely unfavourable situation during the German occupation of the island during World War 2.
This was further followed by a trail of letters from the other book club members detailing their own reading journey with the book club and how the book club meetings became a saving grace in the difficult times of the war when they had nothing else to look forward to.
Driven by an intense desire to meet the inhabitants of Guernsey, Juliet sets out of London leaving behind a wealthy suitor ignoring his marriage proposal. When she sets foot on Guernsey, she finds there is more to the picturesque beauty of Guernsey and the Islanders’ book club stories. There were numerous stories of loss, death, pain and suffering at the hands of Germans during the 5 years of occupation. One character who came out as the hero of those times was Elizabeth McKenna, a strong woman who touched almost all the lives there with her courage. She was eventually arrested for aiding a slave worker and was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp in France.
What was the roast pig story? Did Elizabeth come back with the war already over? Did Juliet manage to get her story for her new book? What happened to the marriage proposal of the wealthy suitor who promised her all the luxuries? Or did she settle down with somebody from Guernsey?
My Review –
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a historical fiction novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows that was published in 2008.
The book is an epistolary novel, composed of letters written from one character to another. (The word epistolary was new to me.) This is not the first such book that I have read but I love the idea of writing and receiving letters and thus loved this one from the beginning for this reason.
However, I have to admit, after a point, the letters got just too much to handle and I had to concentrate hard on who is writing to whom. I even paid attention to how each one signed off at the end of their letters to take a note of the formality and politeness. Hence, when I saw Dawsey Adam signing off as ‘Yours ever’ in one of his letters to Juliet, I couldn’t help but gasp “What was that about? Was he hinting something to Juliet without saying anything else until now?” Oh! He never said anything after this too staying true to his shy character.
The painful stories of the German occupation times left me moist-eyed, especially the one where small children had to be separated from their parents and families in order to be sent to England for their safety. How heart-wrenching it must have been for all of them to bear something like this! The author also brings out the other aspect where the children who stayed behind on Guernsey did not have an easy life either having to deal with starvation and lack of medical facilities.
She also brings out not everyone on the Germans’ side was cruel and ruthless, bringing out the difference between individual and collective conscience.
The author paints a world of 1946 where a majority of the characters are sweet and kind. Their goodness stays unaffected by the atrocities they had faced in the past. There are certain negative characters who appear a few times but they only end up being mild inconveniences in the narrative and hence get sorted out quite easily.
I loved Juliet’s character more than Elizabeth McKenna for Juliet appears to be far more real with her whimsical manners. She is polite, stern and yet funny. I laughed many times reading about the working of her mind in her letters to Sidney and her friend Sophie.
My verdict –
If a book can make me laugh or think deeply, I love that book. And, this one did make me laugh. It was an easy read. It has something to drool over for the romantics. The romantic in me wants to pack my bags, catch the flight and land in Guernsey right away.
My only biggest complaint from this book is it ended too soon and abruptly.
Intrigued? Pin it for later
Have you read this book? What do you have to say about it?
If you loved reading this review of the book and are intrigued by it, then perhaps you would like to read mine too. Catch it here
Check out my Guestpost on Anamika’s blog about one of my favourite series from Enid Blyton – any guesses which one?