The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book made me happy.
I was sitting around a coffee shop wishing I had a Very Good Book to read yesterday (or was it the day before, after work?) when I stumbled across this book on my Nook – not for the first time. It sounded trite and unbearable from the title, but based on the reviews I decided to read the sample. Then I had to buy the book.
Whichever day it was that I bought the book, today is Sunday and I haven't done very much this weekend. The book is not long, but I read slowly and I did have other commitments, like eating and sleeping. However, I did very little without longing to be reading this book. The further into it I got the more I wanted to do nothing but sit and read. (Granted, sitting and reading is a favorite pastime for me anyway.) So, I woke up this morning and put off all obligations and read. Then I got hungry so I went to the same coffee shop and bought a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee and read more. I had to back up a little and re-read some parts for a few reasons: 1. I didn't want to be distracted from my reading while eating, 2. I had read at night while I was incredibly sleepy and I might have not been paying as much attention as I could have and (most importantly) 3. I was getting dangerously close to the end.
This is possibly the worst review ever written, because so far it has been about me and not about the book. But, grant me that it has been about my reaction to the book.
Now, about the book. It is lighthearted. It is simple. It's a chick-flick in book form. It is very possibly predictable. If you know this going into it then it won't surprise you. I'm not generally a fan of chick-flick books but this one was different.
First of all it had many stark details of life in Great Britain just after the war. I cannot answer for how accurate those details are, but they felt real. Second, the characters are delightful, even the jerks. They're not two-dimensional; they are real people. The tight-lipped Adelaide Addison, who tries to put Juliet off of the Literary Society, is believable. She's not just an allegorical representation of prudishness. I could feel that there was something behind the severity – lack of opportunity to marry; a strict upbringing maybe. I wasn't without sympathy for her. And, the witty language in the letters (it is an epistolary novel) grabbed me from the beginning. My favorite character is the eccentric Isola Pribby who is spoken of as a witch (she does make potions), as somebody to be tolerated and one gets the feeling that people don't taker her entirely seriously. Her own letters demonstrate that while she might be an eccentric woman and oblivious to the way others feel about her, she is not without feelings and insecurities.
Quotes I enjoyed.
Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true. (This is used to promote the book. One reviewer used it to demonstrate how poorly the book was written, but in context it comes from a letter written by a woman to a man so you have to take it for what it is. It's a pleasant turn of phrase.)
I laugh. (Written by the severe Adelaide Addison about the Literary Society. It's simple, but it expresses so much – absolute disdain wrapped up in a two-word sentence.)
I admit that Isola needs little encouragement to bang her hammer. (This is the first description of my favorite character – the beginning of her portrait.)
I deny everything! (I just want the opportunity to use this.)
Dr. Stubbins pronounced that you alone had transformed "Distraction" into an honorable word — instead of a character flaw. (I like that flaws can be honorable when given the opportunity to express themselves constructively.)
This book will not shake the world. If you want it to you will be disappointed. However, if you want something to hold your attention, make you think about what horrors people are capable of bringing upon each other, entertain you and make you cry (I admit that I was wiping tears from my eyes in the coffee shop this morning) then I do highly recommend you read this book. It was almost unfortunate that I had to go to a party this afternoon. I wanted to sit around and savor this book, to brood by myself about it. And I feel strangely compelled to write the author a letter.
Thank you for taking the time to read my rambling review. I hope you found it helpful.
e A r n i e
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