Monday, August 04, 2008
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I love 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. I've read it three or four times, and, when I watched the movie with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, I was so caught up in it that I burned myself while I was ironing.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is going to be this year's 84, Charing Cross Road. I predict this book will be the most popular book for book groups. Mary Ann Shaffer's book was finished by her niece, Annie Barrows, after her death. It's a shame that Shaffer isn't here to read the reviews. They're glowing.
In London, in 1946, author Juliet Ashton is looking for her next project after the war. Her letters to her publisher and her best friend describe her life, and her search for an idea. When she receives a charming letter from a resident of Guernsey, she's intrigued. Dawsey Adams writes that he owns a book by Charles Lamb that was once Juliet's, but it's his comments about a roast pig bringing about the start of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society that catches her attention. Before long, Juliet is corresponding with the residents of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel that was occupied by the Germans for five years during the war.
This marvelous epistolary novel reveals the horrors of the occupation, but also the kindnesses during the war. The shadow of Elizabeth McKenna hangs over the book, the wise young woman who is missing from the island, and whose story haunts the residents and Juliet. Readers will care deeply about the islanders and their stories, just as Juliet does.
Book clubs will snatch up this novel. It's a short, charming book, but it's meaty in discussion material. How many people knew about the German occupation of Guernsey, or, really, anything about the island? The story has history, discussions of books, wit, letters by over twenty characters, and two interesting heroines. There's romance, suspense, tears and laughter.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a gem of a novel, one to treasure right along 84, Charing Cross Road.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Dell Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 9780385340991 (hardcover), 288p.